PMS or premenstrual syndrome is experienced by millions of women on a regular basis. Of the nearly 40 million who suffer from this malady, about one in eight must seek medical treatment. The primary reason for going to a doctor is significant change in behavior. Many women simply struggle through PMS, even when beset by serious mood changes.
One of the questions that arises is about the similarity of PMS symptoms and after-effects to those experienced with panic attack and episodes of extreme anxiety. According to some medical reports and studies, doctors have logged as many as 150 distinct symptoms associated with PMS. These include depression, anxious feelings, headache, general fatigue and even feelings of being helpless or feeling as if they lack control.
People who suffer panic attacks also report these same symptoms. There is yet another similarity between PMS and panic attacks. Medical research has shown that a family history of panic attacks and anxiety is a strong indicator of panic attack in later generations. Research also shows that heredity appears to be one factor in determining if daughters and future generations will suffer from PMS. So the answer to the question posed in the title is probably “yes,” panic attacks are related to PMS, at least in the similarity of symptoms.
But there is a bit more to the picture than similar symptoms. A significant number of women have reported that the effects of PMS include not only moments of depression and anxiety but also real panic attacks. In these situations it appears that panic attacks are triggered by the physical changes of premenstrual syndrome.
Studies have also uncovered other common factors. For example, women who suffer from PMS have real, sometimes painful, physical sensations in addition to the mood changes. People who experience panic attacks also have real physical pain, tension and biological changes. In both cases, the root cause may be attributed to chemical changes in the brain.
More to the point, medical research shows that hormonal changes in human beings seems to be a direct trigger for what is traditionally known as “fight or flight” response. These hormonal changes, so closely related to PMS, cause obvious psychological and physical stress. Consequently, the body produces additional adrenaline to prepare us for perceived danger.
Women may then experience the increased heart rate, tension in the muscles, breathing difficulties and other symptoms of a panic attack. With the perception that they are losing control, women may suffer a panic attack that is directly connected to changes from PMS.
The changes women experience with PMS and with a panic episode that follows are not usually considered dangerous. But the intensity of the physical and psychological changes makes them serious and not to be dismissed lightly. One of the real concerns with PMS-related anxiety and panic attacks is the possibility of emotions and thoughts being “dredged up.” Chemical changes in the brain and in the body may lead to the individual actually making the attack worse because they are unable to control their thoughts or behavior.