Addiction: A Woman's Perspective
I got my first period at 14. It was scary and exciting but most importantly it was the beginning of my womanhood. My period has since been a monthly occurrence that has made me feel mature and grown up. We are all familiar with the mood swings, period cramps and headaches associated with getting your period. Other symptoms like fatigue and indecisiveness can affect some women heavily. The standard cure of ice cream and a movie are what we are all accustomed to. But what lies beyond the surface? How do our actions affect our periods especially within the context of addiction and substance abuse? What are we doing to our hormone cycle when we refill our cups or take another hit?
Often when women get their first period it is a time of uncertainty and teenage awkwardness. The psychological stress a young woman goes through during this time can often be the impetus of substance use. If left unchecked women transition to substance abuse faster than men according to J Marich’s 2013 study. This coupled with the 28-day emotional and hormonal cycle can be a worrying mix. Whilst men operate on a one-day cycle women take almost a month to go through their hormonal wave. Women need to be more patient with themselves, they need to learn to sit with their emotions especially if it is around the premenstruum. Cravings are synonymous with substance abuse, but a woman will experience this to a larger extent during her premenstruum. I suggest that all women keep track of their cycles, it allows us to take control and be more mindful of the reasons for our feelings.
A woman who suffers with behavioural disorders and tries to self-medicate with various substances can damage her hormonal cycle permanently. A woman’s endocrine system, hormonal and menstrual cycles affect the development and maintenance of substance dependencies. The luteal phase of a menstrual cycle can bring about harsh periods of substance abuse based on the hormone ratio present in the body.
Over-excessive alcohol consumption can suppress a woman’s natural progesterone release. This is highly problematic as progesterone assists the brain in activating and releasing dopamine into the brain. This will only make the binging worse, as the brain will perceive the lack of dopamine as depression. There are certain points in a woman’s cycle where she is more vulnerable to substances and considering that substances mimic and mask certain chemicals in the brain this can have an array of medical consequences. Substance abuse can result in delayed ovulation and sexual trauma can stunt your cycle. The delay of ovulation and irregular hormone production can lead to oestrogen dominance syndrome which again can lead to the progression harmful substance use.
Whilst there are all these concerns to take into account, there is hope! Women can use their period to bring change into their lives. The follicular phase is prime time for change in behaviour. This is usually around day 4-6 of the cycle. If you are a woman struggling with addiction there is always a way out, use your innate womanly strength to your advantage. Tune into your body and use the peak of your cycle to accept the help you need.
Please note, this article is in no way meant to replace medical advice. If you need medical assistance, please consult your doctor.