Normal periods last for five days or so, but women start feeling its arrival even before the D-day. White vaginal discharge is quite common at the beginning of menstruation and so are mood swings. Some women might also have anxiety surrounding menstruation. Be it the thought of period blood or having discussions around it, some people might actually have menophobia. Anxiety or fear of something is not always healthy. So, how about overcoming menophobia?
To help you deal with menophobia, Health Shots contacted Dr Asha Susawat, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Daffodils by Artemis Jaipur.
What is menophobia?
Menophobia, as the name suggests, is menstruation phobia or period phobia. It refers to an intense fear or anxiety surrounding menstruation. Dr Susawat says it is characterised by extreme distress, anxiety attacks or avoidance behaviours related to the menstrual cycle. While menophobia is not recognsed as a distinct clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it falls under the broader category of specific phobia, which includes irrational fears of specific objects or situations. The prevalence of menophobia is not well-established due to the lack of specific diagnostic criteria. However, there are women who might experience some degree of fear or anxiety related to menstruation. The fear can range from mild discomfort to severe phobia.
What is the cause of fear of periods?
The fear of periods can stem from a variety of factors which differ from person to person. Some women might have experienced traumatic or negative events related to menstruation in their past, such as embarrassing situations, painful periods or cultural taboos relating to menstruation. These experiences can contribute to the development of fear and anxiety, says the expert. Apart from this, societal stigma, lack of education, and misconceptions about menstruation might also play a role in triggering fear and discomfort.
Signs of menophobia
Signs of menophobia can manifest in several ways. People with menophobia are likely to experience intense anxiety attacks when faced with situations related to menstruation, such as discussing periods or seeing menstrual products. They might also show avoidance behaviours, such as skipping school or work during their period, avoiding social situations where menstruation might be discussed, or constantly worrying about the onset of their period. Physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling or shortness of breath can also be seen at the time of heightened anxiety, says the expert.
Ways to deal with menophobia
You can cope with menophobia by following some strategies.
Increasing knowledge and understanding about menstruation can help to do away with misconceptions and alleviate fear and anxiety. Learning about the biology of menstruation, its normal variations, and debunking myths can empower women to approach their periods with more confidence.
Seeking professional help from a therapist experienced in anxiety disorders can provide guidance and support in managing menophobia. To deal with cases like menophobia, cognitive behavioural therapy is a commonly used approach that helps people to identify and challenge irrational thoughts and behaviours, develop coping strategies, and gradually face their fears.
3. Relaxation techniques
Practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation can help in reducing anxiety and promote a sense of calmness. These techniques can be used during menstruation or while dealing with menstrual-related situations to help in managing fear and stress.
4. Peer support
Connecting with others who share similar experiences can be great for you. Joining support groups or online communities can provide a sense of validation, understanding and support. Sharing experiences and learning from others can help you to realise that you are not alone in your fears.
5. Gradual exposure
Gradually exposing yourself to feared situations related to menstruation
can help to desensitise the fear response over time. This can involve starting with small steps such as discussing menstruation with a trusted friend or family member, and gradually progressing to more challenging situations, suggests Dr Susawat. This approach will allow you to build confidence and reduce anxiety, ultimately allowing you to deal with situations related to menstruation with more confidence.
But if you experience extreme distress or find difficulty in daily functioning then you should check with a doctor.