When we live under pressure, it is not only the mind that shows suffering, the body also suffers. For some women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle making it irregular, until it disappears, or even never appears if it is very young. In these cases we speak of amenorrhea. Let’s explore the topic with the doctor Patrizia Vaccaropsychotherapist in Milan, who has been dealing with these issues for years.
What is amenorrhea
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation. Primary is when it concerns girls who at 16 have not yet had their first menstrual cycle (often due to congenital anomalies of the reproductive system). It is said secondary when menstruation disappear for at least six months in an adult woman. In this case, the causes are often to be found in the lifestyle (stress, wrong diet, excessive physical exercise).
Why do problems on the menstrual cycle appear
“When we are overworked, the body activates what is called stress reaction: the organism enters an alarm situation and resets itself to lower standards », explains the expert.
“In other words, it implements a redistribution of resources to face the difficulties of the moment. This therefore means that on a physiological level some functions not necessary for survival are silenced, including reproductive capacity. In practice it is as if our body-mind system warned us that before we can give birth to another life we must ensure our own survival. Then when the body returns to being in equilibrium, the menstrual cycle also regains its normal periodicity ».
The role of the hypothalamus
About half of the amenorrhea it is of hypothalamic origin, that is, it is caused by an area of the brain that regulates the production of gonadotropins (ie the substances that then allow the production of estrogens, the female hormones involved in the development of the ovulatory cycle). The good news is that in this case the amenorrhea is reversible.
What to do to resolve the amenorrhea
“The first thing to do is go to your gynecologist and do all the necessary analyzes. Then, once it is understood that amenorrhea is caused by excessive stress, fatigue, burnout or psychological distress, it is better to consult a psychotherapist and work on several fronts », says Dr. Vaccaro. “Unfortunately, in fact, we do not work as an on-off switch: even if we are aware of the cause, solving the problem could be more complex, because under pressure we sometimes implement behaviors that often aggravate the body’s energy expenditureinstead of putting it to rest ».
Watch out for the need for control
A typical behavior of women without periods is to increase sports activity, or to impose even more restrictive diets or strict rules in any other field. That is, the drive for control increases and there is a tendency to a more rigid functioning, in which there is greater difficulty in managing changes and unexpected events. For this reason, if the gynecologist has ruled out organic hypotheses, it is it is necessary to rely on a specialized psychotherapist.