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New study shows menstrual cycles may affect suicide risk

Researchers found suicidal ideation and planning both peaked in the days before and in the first few days of menstrual bleeding.
New study shows menstrual cycles may affect suicide risk
Posted at 6:54 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 20:56:19-05

A new study found menstrual cycles may have an effect on day-to-day suicide risk.

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago found suicidal ideation and planning both peaked in the days before and in the first few days of menstrual bleeding.

It means a woman who has a history of suicidal thoughts or behaviors may actually experience a surge of those feelings based on where she is in her menstrual cycle. 

Clinical psychologist Jaclyn Ross and PhD student Jordan Barone led the study at the University of Illinois Chicago. They spoke with Scripps News about their findings.

"What we're seeing is that there are these individual differences in when people are sensitive to different mood changes based on cyclical hormones," Barone said. "What we think is going on is that people are sensitive to the acute fluctuations. So it's not that their hormones are too high at a certain point or too low. Some people have brains that are particularly sensitive to acute changes in progesterone or in estrogen, that are just happening regularly every month."

SEE MORE: CDC: Suicidal thoughts among teenage girls at highest rate in a decade

"One of the big contributions of this study is it really helps us understand the individual risk profiles of people," Ross said. "'When are they most vulnerable to suicidal thinking and suicidal planning and why? What are the symptoms that drive that?'"

"The key to addressing that in a clinical context when you're the provider and you've got a patient sitting in front of you is you need to be doing probably daily readings," Ross said. "We need to be tracking these things daily, understanding, what are the symptoms that tend to drive your thoughts of suicide the most? Is it when you feel depressed? Is it when you perceive yourself to be a burden to others? How do we start to notice those risk factors for you and when those tend to take place in the menstrual cycle for you? And can these become more recurrent, predictable factors over time that you and your provider have this shared understanding of? And then you intervene accordingly."

"There are absolutely concerns that that could extend to girls or individuals who have periods that are in their teens or their early puberty years," Barone said. "We want to make sure that people are willing to talk about this early and younger; that people are willing to educate individuals as they start their periods that most people are going to experience these sorts of patterns. But for people who do, it's really, really crucial to identify when they can be at risk."

If you are struggling, remember, you don't have to figure it out alone. You can talk with someone by calling or texting the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.


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