A vicious cycle

Why some women are slaves to their hormones

Lori Adolf wants a holiday from her hormones. Every month the Vancouver mom spends the two weeks before her period in misery. “I feel irritable and become ultra-sensitive,” she says. For half the month, Adolf also struggles to keep her cool with her four-year-old son, Trevor. “When he gets whiny, I can feel myself getting hot, like I’m ready to explode. I have to walk away so I won’t yell at him.” Yet, presto chango, as soon as her period starts, Adolf says, “I feel instantly better. But I know that in two weeks or less, I’ll feel lousy again.”

Adolf isn’t alone. As many as 90 percent of us experience premenstrual mood changes, according to Shaila Misri, who directs the reproductive mental health program at St. Paul’s and BC Women’s hospitals in Vancouver. And feelings of irritability, anger and anxiety aren’t necessarily limited to the few days just before our periods. Indeed, according to the experts, some women may feel “normal” only one week out of every month.

If you ever feel harassed by your hormones, here’s the lowdown on what’s happening to your body and what you can do to stay on a more even keel.