Binge Eating and Menstrual Disorders

Woman battling self-harm

We’ve all heard the long-running and, frankly, tired jokes about women and PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome). These jokes are often used to shrug off an assertive, emotional, or a direct woman’s opinions with the invalidating message that “they’re just PMS-ing.”

As insulting as this is, there is truth to the fact that the menstrual cycle causes extreme physical and emotional changes for women. This does not mean that their opinions are not valid or that their views and emotions cannot be trusted. However, it does mean that these changes make them vulnerable to other physical and emotional challenges.

For example, studies are showing that experiencing menstrual disorders such as PMS or Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) can put women at an increased risk for binge-eating disorder.

Menstrual Disorders

Before we make the connection to eating disorders, let’s set the record straight on what exactly PMS and PMDD are.

PMS is experienced by approximately 90% of women and is used to describe the physical and emotional symptoms, such as bloating, moodiness, or headaches, that women experience one to two before their period comes.

Young girl struggling with binge eatingThese symptoms often occur after ovulation, the release of an egg, when levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically if a woman is not pregnant.

These symptoms often go away after the woman begins her period, as hormone levels begin to rise again.

PMDD is similar. However, it is used to describe PMS symptoms that become extreme. PMDD is an official depressive disorder diagnosis in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM-5).

The 3 to 5% of menstrual women that experience PMDD often experience “a cluster of cyclically occurring affective, behavioral and somatic symptoms, with some the most essential features being marked depressed mood, anxiety, anger/irritability, decreased interest in daily activities, social withdrawal and appetite changes [1].”

The key component in the diagnosis of PMDD is the severity of symptoms, as they often caused such marked distress as to impact daily functioning.

PMDD and Binge Eating Disorder

As mentioned above, one symptom of PMDD is a change in appetite, over-eating, and/or having specific food cravings [1].

Studies have indicated the connection between PMS/PMDD and disordered eating symptoms, as women often increase their eating before their period to comfort themselves physically or as a means of affect regulation [1].

Other than this, there is not a lot of specific information on the relationship between binge eating disorder (BED) and menstrual disorders.

Sad lady because eating disorder recovery is hardOne study sought to learn more by following one woman with long-term PMDD and subclinical BED symptoms. After multiple attempts at treatment, this individual received a hysterectomy as well as BSO, a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, where both of her ovaries and fallopian tubes were removed.

In following and examining the symptoms of this woman, the study hypothesized that, upon having these surgeries, her BED symptoms would subside due to the lack of a menstrual cycle. This was the case, as results showed that the woman’s “overall level of eating disorder psychopathology had also reduced drastically [1].”

The study noted that, while a reduction of PMDD symptoms has been shown following these surgeries, this is the first study to address the impact of BSO on eating disorders specifically. What the study did confirm was the previous understanding that link binge eating to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle [1].

If you feel you struggle with binge eating or disordered eating symptoms related to your menstrual cycle, reach out to your doctor or treatment team to learn more.


Resources:

[1] Dahlgren, C. L., Qvigstad, E. (2018). Eating disorders in premenstrual dysphoric disorder: a neuroendocrinological pathway to the pathogenesis and treatment of binge eating. Journal of Eating Disorders, 6:35.


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published January 21, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on January 21, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.