For about 4 years now, I have been battling with fully-formed OCD symptoms, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s something I have lived with all of my life, but was only diagnosed because of a near breakdown in my adulthood.
When people think of OCD symptoms, they seem to envision someone who spends hours on end cleaning their bathtub, or flipping light switches on and off over and over again. Those may be common outlets for someone with this illness, but that’s not entirely it. If indeed OCD symptoms were just about sheer determination to make sure my kitchen sink sparkle everyday – I’d be okay with it honestly. When someone is exhibiting that kind of behavior, it is not a symptom – it is an expression of a symptom.
The only way I can describe how it is for me is imagine having that feeling you get when you jump into water that’s too deep, and for a split second you think you’re going to die – it’s like drowning because something enters your mind that won’t go away. Personally, I do not take medications because I have in the past and the side effects I’ve experienced outweigh the very few benefits. For the most part, I think as compared to some sufferers, I have very “mild” case – except for when I am experiencing premenstrual syndrome.
My experience with PMS and OCD
Personally, when I think about someone with bad premenstrual syndrome and any other type of anxiety-based disorder, I envision a Tsunami crossing paths with a category 5 hurricane – and that’s what it feels like.
A few years ago, I had a few very bad months. Like clockwork, the two weeks before menstruation were complete hell on earth. I would convince myself that I and everyone I cared about was nearing death. Thoughts of diseases and natural or man-made disasters consumed my thought process. At one point, I couldn’t stop rubbing my lymph node, and I had caused it to be so swollen that you could actually see it bulging out of my neck.
Another time, I actually missed work because my emergency brake wouldn’t fully engage the way I remembered it should – and I was sure that if I got out, my car would run someone over.
These are a few of the many occasions where OCD during PMS stopped me from leading a normal life. Otherwise, it has very little impact on my day. People don’t even realize I have it – they just think I’m quirky.
Unfortunately, my experiences are not at all uncommon. At the advice of my doctor, I joined a support group for mothers with OCD and quickly learned that I am one of thousands of women who experienced extremely heightened symptoms during premenstrual phases.
Talking about it makes it easier to cope with during off times, but we all have come to the conclusion that you have to be proactive about it in order to maintain some level of normalcy during the “nightmare”.
Coping during ‘peak’ OCD times and PMS
Since some of the symptoms of PMS mimic OCD, it only makes sense that when a woman is experiencing both at the same time… well, it’s not pretty.
Here’s my winning formula:
Exercise: This is probably the last thing someone having a hard time with PMS wants to do, but it helps. According to the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, exercise is a great way to increase serotonin in the brain without the use of medications. It will help relief PMS symptoms and decrease anxiety.
Sleep: Sleeping is the body’s time to heal itself, both mentally and physically. Many mental and mood disorders are worsened by a chronic lack of sleep. Make sure you’re getting your zzz’s at night, and you will be able to better deal with problems in a rational way.
Calcium: Speak with your doctor before starting any type of vitamin or mineral, especially calcium. It can cause kidney stones and other medical conditions if taken by someone with calcium sensitivity. That being said, my OB/GYN advised me that calcium has a calming effect for people with anxiety, and it also helps them sleep better. For me, it works wonders to take the edge off my PMS symptoms too.
Avoiding stimulants: This is an important thing to keep in mind during all days of the month for someone suffering from a type of anxiety disorder. The effect coffee and other caffeinated beverages have on the already-overly-stressed brain can be cataclysmic.
Also, try these for temporary relief:
- Go out into the open and outdoors: It helps you realize that you aren’t confined in any way.
- Talk to people who understand and join a support group.
- Treat yourself to something special, something relaxing like a pedicure or nice dinner out.