How Menstruation Effects ADHD Teenagers

The Impact of Menstruation on ADHD: What Every Parent Should Know

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD or ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition marked by ongoing patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that impact daily functioning and development. Symptoms can vary greatly among individuals, but they can be especially challenging for teenage girls during their menstrual cycles.

Dealing with menstruation while managing ADHD symptoms can be too overwhelming for many girls. Hence, in such cases, parents’ proactive intervention is highly important. Understanding how ADHD symptoms can be amplified by menstrual periods and how to cope with them appropriately is the first step in providing effective support. Let’s discuss it here. 

How Menstruation Affects ADHD

Menstruation can significantly impact ADHD symptoms mainly due to the hormonal changes that occur throughout the menstrual cycle. During menstruation, levels of estrogen (aka “female hormone”) and progesterone (aka “pregnancy hormone” ) fluctuate, which can affect neurotransmitter function in the brain. 

Studies have shown that estrogen, in particular, typically drops significantly during the menstrual period. This hormone is known to influence the availability and efficiency of dopamine, a neurotransmitter crucial for attention and executive function, which are already impaired in individuals with ADHD.  

On the other hand, progesterone levels rise and fall throughout the menstrual cycle, and these fluctuations can influence mood and cognitive function. High levels of progesterone, which occur in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, can have a sedative effect and may exacerbate feelings of fatigue and sluggishness, which can further impair girls’ with ADHD’s ability to focus and stay organized. 

Progesterone can also impact the brain’s GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) system. GABA is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect and helps regulate mood and anxiety. Fluctuations in progesterone levels can alter GABA activity, potentially leading to increased anxiety, irritability, and emotional dysregulation, which can further complicate the management of ADHD symptoms.

Moreover, physically, the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to symptoms such as pain and fatigue. 

  • Pain is often caused by the release of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that trigger uterine contractions and inflammation. It can be distracting and overwhelming, making it difficult to focus on tasks or engage in activities that require sustained mental effort. 
  • Fatigue, in contrast, can result from blood loss and the overall physical stress of menstruation. It can lead to decreased energy levels and cognitive function, impairing the ability to stay alert and attentive. 

For individuals with ADHD who already struggle with inattention and distractibility, these added physical symptoms can significantly worsen their ability to manage daily tasks and responsibilities.

What Parents Can Do?

One effective strategy is to invest in things that can help alleviate period symptoms for girls with ADHD. Note that every girl, with or without ADHD, experiences different menstrual symptoms, so it’s very important to talk about what your daughter wants and needs. 

If costs are a concern, don’t worry. Many alternative financial solutions are available, such as borrower-friendly online loans like the CreditNinja 550 credit score loan or zero-interest buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes. 

Unfortunately, open communication with girls, especially those with ADHD on their periods, can be hard for parents. Teenagers often experience heightened sensitivity and may feel embarrassed or reluctant to discuss their menstrual symptoms or ADHD struggles. 

This reluctance can stem from a fear of being misunderstood, judged, or dismissed. The emotional dysregulation associated with both ADHD and hormonal changes during menstruation can also make it challenging for them to articulate their feelings and needs effectively.

To help overcome these barriers, parents can:

  • Create a Safe Space: Foster an environment where your child feels safe to express her thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or dismissal. Let her know that her feelings are valid and that you are there to support her.
  • Be Patient and Empathetic: Show patience and empathy when discussing sensitive topics. Acknowledge her feelings and struggles, and reassure her that it’s okay to feel the way she does.
  • Use Open-Ended Questions: Encourage dialogue by asking open-ended questions that invite detailed responses. This approach can help her share more about her experiences and emotions.
  • Provide Reassurance: Reassure her that her symptoms are manageable and that you will work together to find solutions. Offer consistent support and understanding.

If communication remains difficult, consider seeking help from professionals, such as therapists or counselors, who can provide strategies and support tailored to managing ADHD and menstruation-related challenges. 

Note that there are government programs that can help parents access these resources. Programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and local community health services can provide low-cost or free counseling and medical services. 

Final Thoughts

Supporting your daughters with ADHD, whether they’re on their periods or not, can be a never-ending, rough journey to take. It can be overwhelming and exhausting even for the most patient and loving parents. 

But that’s okay; it’s normal. Parents are humans who can get tired, sick, and down. If you’re in this phase, know that you’re not alone. There are resources and support systems available to help you navigate these difficulties. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of them for your sake and that of your children.

Also read:

How to Teach Teens to Regulate Their Emotions

How Gardening Therapy Helps Struggling Teens

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