Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Early Periods Tied to More Mental Health Issues as Adults

early periods mental healthCould early menstruation play a role in mental health issues, including depression, eating disorders, anxiety and substance abuse? That’s one of the questions researchers set out to answer in a 14-year study that followed nearly 8,000 U.S. girls from adolescence until their late 20s. 

This isn’t the first study to explore the link. While previous research has linked early menstruation to more severe mental health disorders, little was known about how long these problems persisted. 

Researchers discovered that mental health issues persisted until the girls were in their late 20s and even in their 30s when it came to depression. They found that the younger the girls began menstruation, the higher the risk for depression. Note: Today, the average age of menstruation is 12.5 years old, with one-third of American girls getting their first period by age 8. 

What’s more, early menstruation was associated with an increased risk for antisocial behavior (acting out, rule breaking, delinquency). And, surprisingly, the behavior got worse as they got older. In most cases, antisocial behavior subsides with age.

"It can be very easy for people to dismiss the emotional challenges that come along with growing up as a girl, and say, 'Oh, it's just that age; it's what everyone goes through,'" study author Jane Mendle said in a news release from Cornell University.

But brushing off these issues as "just puberty" could be harmful to the long-term mental health of your child. "If your child is developing earlier than their peers, it's important to pay close attention to how they are feeling—from a mood and behavior standpoint—so that if interventions are needed, such as psychotherapy or medications, we can get those started and hopefully prevent further problems in the future,” said Dr. Ellen Selkie, an adolescent medicine specialist with the University of Michigan, in an editorial accompanying the study.

The bottom line: Early puberty is just one more risk factor to keep in mind when it comes to mental health issues and even substance abuse — and this is especially important if you have a family history of these conditions.

Mental Health and Addiction
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