In addition to cramps and bloating, new research may add repetitive negative thinking to the list of side-effects for women on their period. The study published in Clinical Psychological Science found that women with generalized anxiety disorder reported more negative thoughts after the luteal phase (after ovulation) of their menstrual cycle compared to non-anxious women.
“Repetitive negative thinking is a transdiagnostic process in numerous psychological conditions that involves repeated, frequent, and uncontrollable thoughts that focus on the negative aspects of oneself and the world,” wrote the study authors.
An online survey prescreened eligible women along with collecting demographics and menstrual cycle information. A total of 40 women with general anxiety disorder and 41 nonanxious women enrolled in the study. Participants self-reported how long their menstrual cycle lasted, and researchers used luteinizing hormone tests to estimate a participant’s ovulation date.
Women underwent four sessions that corresponded with different phases of their menstrual cycle. During these sessions, women collected a small sample of their saliva between the hours of 8 PM to 11 PM. Afterwards, they filled out an online survey about their anxiety and menstrual cycle symptoms.
Researchers found that when the menstrual cycle of women with general anxiety moved from follicular (time between first day of period and ovulation) to the luteal phase (after ovulation), there was an increase in negative emotions and negative thoughts. The researchers used the participant’s saliva to study any abnormal fluctuations in sex hormone levels. Interestingly, the hormonal changes caused by estradiol and progesterone during a menstrual cycle were not associated with this increase in negative thoughts.
The researchers highlight several limitations which could have influenced the study results. These limitations included the lack of screening for women with premenstrual dysmorphic disorder and taking PMS into consideration when analyzing the data. In addition, the researchers write that taking serum samples versus saliva samples may have been more sensitive in detecting any variations in hormone levels.
“Future studies could better account for rapid fluctuations in salivary estradiol and progesterone by taking several measures within a 24-hr period.”
The study, “Women With Generalized Anxiety Disorder Show Increased Repetitive Negative Thinking During the Luteal Phase of the Menstrual Cycle”, was authored by Sophie H. Li, Thomas F. Denson, and Bronwyn M. Graham.