ADHD and PMS: Good Luck!

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.

How so?

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.

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7 Replies to “ADHD and PMS: Good Luck!”

  1. Can I just share a laugh and say that I find hilarious that I read this blog entry today and I also started my period today…. XD But in all seriousness, this has been a very educational read though. Thank you so much for saying all this. As much as I would like to just forward this to my family and boyfriend and point saying “See? I’m not entirely crazy!” I do recognize that I still have some room to work with and need to actually try to, at the very least warn people ;P but to do something with this new knowledge. Thanks for the pick-me-up! 😀

  2. Now that I have come out of one of my moments and stop crying Can anybody related to perimenopausal cycles and what can be done if you are being treated with progesterone. You don’t know where you are in your cycle. And I just went thur 2 days of extreme depression where I was afraid of what would happen while I was alone. I don’t even know which dr to turn to they all have their own specialty. I just need suggestions. I really don’t want to lose the rest of my mind.

  3. ADHD and PMS mixed with the chaos and the noise at my job is enough to drive me mad and it has. There are times when I get so stressed and pissed off that I am unapproachable. Then there are other times at my job where I am the warm little center that people gather around if they want to smile or laugh. My co-workers love me, but both of my bosses think I’m nuts!

  4. Simplynuz…I’m on meds for ADD, depression and anxiety. I’ve recently started thinking I may have some menopausal issues. I’m going to go to an endocrinologist just to see what ALL my hormones are doing. I suspect my estrogine is low and my cortisol is sky high from stress. May even have low iron. Soo…I’ll let you know what happens.

  5. I am glad to read this and confirm what I have noticed what happens when aunt flow comes to visit. I always have difficulty concentrating, drop and bump into things, and overall the ADD symptoms are heightened. If I increase my medicine, there is a slight improvement. It is so hard during these days. I become very impatient that I cannot get stuff done and whatever I am doing takes four times long to complete, because I am running around in circles.

  6. Wow! I can totally relate to this. In fact, I try to book my training days around my menstrual cycle! I have been wondering about the correlation between PMS and ADD symptoms for a while now.Thanks for this!

  7. I had postpartum depression after each of my 2 sons births – it was awful, any coping skills i had went straight out the window. My hormones were so messed up. I was so angry, all the time. It really changed who I was, who I am.

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