Whether you have had a menstrual cycle for 1 year or 10 years, it never gets less distracting. The hormonal imbalance, swelling, cramps, a girl going through it can't, not notice it. For girls also dealing with ADHD, it can be especially difficult.
PMS and ADHD do not have a good relationship. This is especially true the week before menstruation begins. Progesterone increases and dopamine decreases. This can heighten symptoms of ADHD, making these girls more irritable, forgetful, and emotional... all at once.
Important Information About ADHD & PMS
The main reason those with ADHD struggle so much during their cycle is because of estrogen. According to Pharmacological Reviews, estrogen can stimulate certain populations of dopamine and serotonin receptors in the brain. When estrogen levels drop in the weeks before a period so do the levels of these chemicals in the brain. Symptoms of ADHD are affected by a lot of those same chemicals.
This means people with ADHD can be more sensitive to estrogen, and their symptoms can and will usually intensify as hormones fluctuate throughout the month.
Preparation For PMS With ADHD
Even if a period is spot on [no pun intended] and comes at the same time and date every month, that doesn't mean that a girl with ADHD is going to be prepared. Being forgetful is unfortunately one of the major difficulties of those with ADHD. To add to that, it seems the more important the task, the easier it is to forget. Being prepared will help tremendously.
If mothers can help their daughters by thinking ahead and pre-planning for and with them, it will make it easier for them when the time comes.
Some ways to help prepare might be:
- Set a reminder on the phone. Mom could do it, or if the daughter has a phone, then on hers. [Maybe both]
- Make sure there are adequate supplies on hand
- Stocking supplies in a small make-up bag for school
- Have overnight supplies on hand
The Emotional Mess Of PMS & ADHD
Teenage girls are going to struggle with emotions, it's just the way the world works. When you add ADHD on top of it, it causes a major shift. Even in the highest of spirits, on the best days ever, girls with ADHD can struggle. Then they throw in premenstrual syndrome.
For girls with ADHD, the ups and downs of PMS sometimes hit harder, says Mandi Silverman, PsyD. It's distracting, and if a girl already has difficulty regulating her emotions, it can feel really overwhelming. The best way to help your daughter deal with the unwelcome feelings caused by PMS is to help her be prepared. Have her chart how her period impacts her over three cycles.
Once your daughter begins to understand how her cycle affects her, she'll be able to make helpful changes where she can be more prepared for things like lack of concentration or moodiness that consistently cause problems.
Patricia Quinn, MD and author of "Understanding Women with AD/HD" states the changes in estrogen levels at puberty and again at menopause can dramatically impact a woman's ADHD symptoms, along with her ability to function. Similar fluctuations related to a woman's menstrual cycle can worsen both her ADHD symptoms and the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Things that may help with this are:
- Get more sleep and physical activity
- Talk with teachers about working ahead in preparation for a difficult day or days
- Take a break from social activities
- Find mindless, stress-free distractions. [Coloring, listening to music]
ADHD Medication & PMS
Generally, it would seem that PMS in those with ADHD seems worse in the later part of their menstrual cycle. Girls may notice symptoms much stronger than usual, and also notice that their medication doesn't seem to be doing what it's supposed to.
According to WebMD, there's scientific evidence that stimulants have a greater effect when combined with estrogen. So, as those levels drop in the days leading up to a period, girls may see their symptoms get worse. It is also known that quite a few of the medications have side effects consisting of, but not limited to, heavy and painful periods. It might be a good idea to talk with a doctor about adjusting medications during cycles.
Being A Source Of Support For Your Child
Making sure that girls know they have a strong support system will help through this time. A period is nothing to be ashamed of, however, it is often perceived as gross, or disgusting. It isn't pleasant, but it is natural and proves just how strong the female body is, and what it's capable of.
Having open and honest conversations with young girls who have ADHD and are going through this change of life lets them know that they are not alone. Sharing stories, feelings, and questions helps to know somebody else has been there too.
When all is said and done, helping these young girls find routine and balance is key. This will make her life much easier. They tend to face enough struggles, but with the right support system and plan in place, they won't need to dread their period nearly as much.