I have a friend who on some days becomes convinced that people are out to get her. For instance, she thought a fellow mom from her kid’s school posted a passive-aggressive Facebook aimed specifically at her–even though to me it seemed like a total innocuous post about puppies. Another time she thought that the bad service she got at a restaurant was because the waiter doesn’t think she was dressed well enough–but, c’mon, it was a diner. Who dresses up for diner food? And then there are the calls I get from her job where she’s whispering into the phone that she thinks her coworkers are colluding against her. To be honest, I’ve worked in cutthroat offices before and it could possibly be true. So, I’ll give her this one.
But, the thing is, on other days this same friend is totally confident and self-assured and all pallsy-wallsy with friends, family, neighbors, school moms, even coworkers. No one bothers her and everyone is cooperative, friendly and awesome.
I’ve always been fascinated by this friend’s wild flip-flops on how much she trusts–or mistrusts–other people. So, I found a 2016 study in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health especially intriguing and think it might shed some light on why my friend goes through these major swings. (Spoiler alert: It has to do with our monthly hormone cycles.)
If you or someone you know also feel like others have painted a target on your back from time to time, you might find this study interesting, too.
In the study, 278 women filled out online questionnaires once per week for four consecutive weeks gauging certain positive and negative emotions they experienced. What the researchers discovered after examining the data:
During the few days right before our period starts (in our premenstrual week) and the first few days of our period, some women become “more sensitive to perceived attacks or criticisms from others”, the researchers write. What’s more, women may feel that these “perceived attacks occurred because of something bad about themselves.”
In other words, some women feel more targeted by others, but at the same time they also feel that for some reason they deserve it.
Take my friend, for example: On some days, she feels like she doesn’t fit with the “in” crowd of moms at her kid’s school because she’s not hip enough. And, there are times she worries that because she doesn’t have the time or energy to dress up in her spare time due to long work hours and raising a family she’s being judged for her sweatpants. This study suggests that these negative emotions my friend is experiencing may be getting exacerbated by where she is in her cycle.
Why? The study authors speculate it may be because low estrogen in the days leading up to and during early menstruation worsen feelings of anxiety (which can intensify paranoid feelings) and depression (which can drag down self-worth).
So what can you do if you feel like the world is conspiring against you on the days leading up to and the first few days of your period? When tempted to jump to conclusions and assume the worst about something someone said or did, try to remind yourself that you’re seeing the world through a more negative lens due to where you are in your cycle. Then, try to remember all the wonderful qualities about yourself–such as your loyalty, sense of humor and special talents–which can help raise your self-esteem and mood, possibly helping you view interactions with others a bit more positively.
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