Your ability to pay attention, problem solve, plan, and regulate your emotion is managed in part by certain chemicals in your brain. One of these important chemicals is Dopamine. Studies suggest that an ADHD brain does not release or reload dopamine effectively, which leads to problems with all of those executive function activities listed above that we need to use on a daily basis.
So why should women care about this?
PMS, of course! That’s right, ladies, the wonderful hormonal visitor that disrupts your life every month may also be escalating your ADHD symptoms.
The level of dopamine in your brain is regulated by estrogen and progesterone. When progesterone levels are high, dopamine levels drop. During the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle (aka the “follicular phase”), your level of estrogen is high and your level of progesterone is low. Therefore, your ADHD symptoms should be somewhat predictable. During the last 14 days of your menstrual cycle (aka the “luteal phase”), your level of estrogen is low, your progesterone is high, and, therefore, you guessed it, your dopamine is low. A drop in dopamine could have big impacts on a woman with ADHD who already has trouble with her dopamine to begin with!
So what can you do about it?
About as much as you can do for your other PMS symptoms: plan and adjust. If you have a really important assignment for school or presentation for work, try not to schedule it during your luteal phase. If you haven’t already, let your partner know the dates of your menstrual cycle so s/he can play a supportive role. And remember to be more forgiving of yourself! If you have a particularly terrible day (you forget your lunch at home, you’re late for work, you lose your purse on the way and you can’t seem to concentrate long enough to send an email), don’t pull your hair out. Studies show that exercise can increase the release of dopamine and raise the number of dopamine receptors, so… take more energy breaks throughout your day or tell your friends you’d rather go to an exercise class than to the movies. (And perhaps curse Mother Nature, because if our menstrual cycle is any indication, I’d say she’s a bit of a misogynist.)
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TotallyADD.com is an independent website created & owned by Big Brain Productions Inc. (Rick Green). We tell you this because so many people ask if pharmaceutical companies paid for any of this and the answer is absolutely not. Purchases in our shop, and our Patreon community pays for content creation.
Lauren Kouba is the Director of Clinical Services at Springboard Clinic, a lifespan ADHD clinic in downtown Toronto.
Please visit us at www.springboardclinic.com