Mental health is a subject that was never spoken about openly, but is now, finally emerging from the shadows. This is an important issue, affecting many, that needs to be addressed, not stigmatised and labelled as a ‘problem’. Many factors affect a person’s mental health, and they can broadly be distinguished into nature and nurture. However, there’s more to it than just two simple categories.
Biological and psychological factors can be categorised under nature. Biological factors mean the hormonal changes kicking off inside your body, your genetic structure and the symptoms you experience as a direct result of this. Psychological factors are your underlying personality type, personal resilience, self-esteem and coping mechanisms. Social factors can be considered to be a part of the nurture category, and include your financial situation, family support and personal, cultural and religious values.
Hormonal changes are an inevitable reality during your period. The two main hormones involved during your ‘time of the month’ are oestrogen and progesterone, both of which are at different levels at different points in the menstrual cycle. Low levels of oestrogen are also believed to have a direct effect on serotonin, which affects mood and thought processing and is often cited as a cause of depression. Low serotonin is also known to be associated with a craving for carbohydrates, so there’s a scientific reason for your craving for all things bread and pasta, cheesy and chocolatey.
On the nurture front, a lack of social support from friends and family may trigger feelings of loneliness and isolation, and financial worries about accessing safe hygiene supplies can be a big factor affecting mental health.
If you feel like your mental health is not where you would like it to be, or if you feel a little less than yourself more often than you would like, you shouldn’t necessarily brush it off as just another symptom of your period. Consult an expert. There are myriad factors that can affect mental health and while your period is just one of them, never hesitate to make sure that there is nothing else that’s getting you down.