Joan, a Hormonology newsletter subscriber, asks: “Right about ovulation, I start to feel like my heart is racing and I’m anxious for no reason at all. Is this hormone-related? And, if so, is it normal?”
My answer: You should always talk to your health care provider when you’re concerned about anything to do with your heart. (And other organs, for that matter.)
However, I can tell you that research shows women are more susceptible to anxiety symptoms (such as a racing heart, shortness of breath and the sensation of fear for no reason) during certain points in our cycle.
For instance, you may experience them during the second half of your Week 1 (about 4 days after the onset of your period) as a reaction to a steeper rise in estrogen; you may experience them near ovulation during the second half of your Week 2 due to high estrogen and testosterone ramping up your nervous energy to cycle-long highs; or you may experience them during the first half of your Week 3 or during your Week 4 due to a plunge in estrogen, which triggers certain changes in brain chemicals that can trigger anxiety.
This doesn’t mean you’ll experience anxiety during every one of these points in your cycle. But, depending on your sensitivity to hormones, you may get anxiety symptoms during one or more of them.
Want a calmer cycle? If you’re bothered by intense or frequent anxiety symptoms throughout the month, try exercising and/or meditating regularly. Research shows that both these activities create changes in the brain that can reduce the number of times you experience bouts of anxiety and make its symptoms less intense when it does arise.