What I Learned About Women’s Hormones & ADHD

What I learned about women's hormones & ADHD

I have been feeling a little hormonal lately.   So much so that I actually asked my doctor during my yearly exam if I could be perimenopausal. She says I am not perimenopausal because I am only 37.

The symptoms I listed for her:

  • Irritability
  • Mental confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Spotting between periods
  • Frequent periods
  • Heavier than normal periods
  • Increased PMS symptoms

The real story behind this article starts back in 2008-2009 when I was trying to get pregnant. I was told that my progesterone levels were low. Progesterone is pretty important in order to maintain a pregnancy.

At the time, I figured it was just my body being weird. The constant spotting was an inconvenience. The byproduct of 13 years of taking birth control pills.

I also thought my mood fluctuations after quitting birth control were due to the clomid I was taking to raise all of my hormone levels.

I wasn’t thinking about ADHD in those days so it never entered my mind that my hormones and ADHD symptoms were very closely rated.

Recently (8 mos ago), I opted to stop taking birth control pills again. Once again, I am feeling totally “off.”  I am having irregular periods and feeling less focused and able to handle my life than I was a year ago.

My part time jobs annoy me. My house annoys me. My family annoys me.  Have you ever felt this way?

What I learned about women's hormones and ADHD

What I learned about

women’s hormones & ADHD

Since I am a compulsive researcher I started Googling things like “hormones and ADHD” or “estrogen and ADHD.”

Guess what?! I am not crazy. There is a connection between hormones and our ADHD symptoms.

PMS

How many of you feel like you deal with major mood swings before your period? <raises hand.>

PMS mood swings are a well-documented phenomenon.

My emotions were much more volatile as I teenager. The medications I took for ADHD were not particularly effective. I admit my issues were multifactorial, but hormones were definitely part of the equation.

Truth be told, I am not positive stimulant meds would have helped me then.  Heck, they might not even help me now. Though I have moments where I might be willing to try.

According to Jacqueline Sinfield of Untapped Brilliance, (Find her HERE) these mood swings are related not just to estrogen’s affects on dopamine, but also to the hormone progesterone. She writes:

“In the first 14 days of the menstrual cycle, everything is fine because estrogen is high and progesterone is low. However, the trouble starts in the second 14 days of your cycle when the estrogen is low and progesterone is high because when progesterone levels are high, dopamine levels drop.”

Dun dun dun….our dopamine levels drop even more before our period starts!

Good Ol’ Aunt Flo

I am going to talk frankly about periods here. If that offends you click away NOW.

Women begin to experience fluctuating levels of hormones during puberty before they begin menstruating. Estrogen levels are highest during the first half of the cycle, and then decline during the follicular phase.

Most women will suffer from some degree of hormone induced mood swings at some point in their lives.

Estrogen is not only responsible for mood swings, but has also been linked to memory and cognitive function. (Source)

The fact that my focus and productivity is worse during that time of the month should come as no surprise. Not that one should use hormones as an excuse…we just need to be aware of what exactly is going on inside our bodies.

Pregnancy and Childbirth

I wrote an article about breastfeeding for HuffPost a while back. Link to article

This article is about women’s hormones, not breastfeeding. But the story I told about my post-partum issues is relevant.  I was hormonal, in pain and caring for a high needs infant.

The postpartum time period was pretty miserable.

I do not consider myself a survivor of major postpartum depression. I had some hormone-induced anxiety and depression after giving birth, which is pretty common.

I found another interesting article HERE.  This one is from ADDitude. You all know I love ADDitude.

Patricia Quinn explains that during pregnancy many women report feeling great due to high levels of hormones.  ADHD symptoms are under control and all is well.  Many of these same women went on to describe how depressed and unfocused they felt after the birth of their child.

Hormone levels drop precipitously after giving birth. This drop can lead to extreme mood swings. Couple that with lack of sleep and it is no wonder shiz gets real.

Perimenopause

My doctor disagrees, but I believe this is the road I am headed down.

While I don’t feel depressed, I have read that many women find themselves feeling blue during perimenopause and menopause.  Dopamine and Serotonin play a major role in feelings of depression.

According to Patricia Quinn in this article,

Estrogen affects the release of both dopamine and serotonin. Those of us with ADHD are often low on dopamine in particular. This explains the increased feelings of sadness that happen during this time in many women’s lives.

Some women first start to notice ADHD symptoms while going through the “change.”  Other women are misdiagnosed with depression and try SSRI’s or other medications before being properly diagnosed.

The best advice I can offer is the following:

  • Educate yourself on the role of hormones at all stages of your life and how they interact with your ADHD symptoms.
  • Talk to your psychologist/psychiatrist openly about what is going on and where you are in your hormonal journey.  Adjust medications as necessary.
  • Discuss hormones and ADHD with your gynecologist. If you need to, educate them.
  • Practice self care. Meditate, read, exercise, eat well and take care of you.

If you read this far you deserve a video!  Here is a short one from one of my favorites, Sari Solden.

For more from Dr. Patricia Quinn here is are some Amazon Links:

 

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