July 19, 2024

New Study Finds Menstrual Cycles Affect Suicide Risk on a Daily Basis

Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have conducted a study that reveals a link between menstrual cycles and suicide risk. The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, is the first longitudinal investigation of how suicidal thoughts and related symptoms fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. The findings provide valuable insights for clinicians on when to focus interventions with suicidal patients.

The study followed 119 female patients who completed a daily survey tracking their mental health symptoms over at least one menstrual cycle. The data collected allowed the researchers to identify patterns and changes in patients’ mental health over the course of their cycle. Previous studies had only estimated the timing of a person’s menstrual cycle status after a suicide attempt, lacking the detailed tracking provided by this study.

The research confirmed previous observations that suicide attempts tend to increase in the days preceding or following the onset of menstruation, known as the perimenstrual phase. However, this study went further by discovering that suicidal ideation was more severe, and suicidal planning was more likely to occur during this specific phase. This highlights the significance of the menstrual cycle as a recurring risk factor for detecting when a suicide attempt might happen.

The daily data collected also allowed the researchers to explore the individual differences in how the cycle affects symptoms and suicidality. The study found that individuals varied in the specific psychiatric symptoms that appeared alongside suicidal thoughts. Emotional symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and hopelessness were most prominent in the premenstrual and early menstrual phases, but the presence of these symptoms did not have the same effect on creating suicidality for each person.

The research aligns with the broader focus of the CLEAR lab at the University of Illinois Chicago, led by associate professor of psychiatry Tory Eisenlohr-Moul. The lab studies premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Eisenlohr-Moul’s previous studies have indicated that PMDD may result from heightened sensitivity to reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Stabilizing these hormones could potentially lessen symptoms.

The authors of the study suggest that similar dynamics of hormone sensitivity may influence suicidal thoughts in people without PMDD. However, further research is needed to understand how these factors relate to each other in individual patients and how this information can be utilized to prevent suicide attempts effectively.

One recommendation from the study is for patients to track their mental health symptoms throughout their menstrual cycle. This information can help clinicians make personalized recommendations for their care. By determining if and how the cycle affects an individual’s mental health, clinicians can intervene with the most suitable strategies.

The researchers hope this study opens up new possibilities for creating individual prediction models that take into account each person’s unique experience with their menstrual cycle. By understanding how the cycle matters for each individual, interventions can be tailored to best prevent suicide attempts and improve overall mental health outcomes.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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