What Is PMDD?
Written by Cinestie Olson
Disclaimer: this blog will feature a personal story that talks about life-ending thoughts and other sensitive mental health topics.
If you’ve read our blog about endometriosis, you may know that there are several menstrual disorders and diseases that are hard to diagnose, to treat, and to experience. You may also know that period pain is not normal! We aren’t just talking about physical symptoms either, but also the emotional and mentally straining pain that can come with our periods. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, is a menstrual disorder that can cause abnormal reactions to our periods, and the symptoms can be emotionally tolling.
What Is It?
We all may know about PMS. PMS can happen a couple weeks or days before your period, and can include mood swings, bloating, cravings, and much more. So what’s the difference between PMS and PMDD? Quite a lot. PMDD is a much more severe and serious case of PMS. It’s considered a chronic disorder that needs attention and possibly treatment.
The cause of PMDD is unknown, however, it could be an abnormal reaction to the hormone changes you can experience during and around your period. The hormone changes cause a deficiency of serotonin (the hormone that makes your brain happy).
What Are The Symptoms?
Those who have PMDD can find that their psychological symptoms can be more pressing than their physical symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Lack of control
- Poor self-image
- Emotional Sensitivity
Other symptoms that are physical can include:
- Eye vision changes
- Pelvic pressure
- Skin inflammation
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle spasms
- Painful periods
- Appetite changes
“I didn’t realize for the longest time that I had PMDD. It started with me having extreme mood swings in high school, to which I adjusted my birth control pills to help with them, but it didn’t work… I felt so alone, and at one point my senior year of high school, I was suicidal due to the hormonal fluctuations. It felt like everything I did to help my hormones didn’t make any difference. All the way through college, I would get angry at the slightest things. I’d have panic attacks because I thought my coworkers or friends were mad at me. It felt like I was extremely wired and too noticeable about everything and everyone around me - and I could not control any of the feelings I had.
The lows were absolutely rock bottom. I noticed these feelings would hit about the same time in my cycle, usually two weeks before my period started.”
- Olivia, 22, she/her
How Is PMDD Diagnosed?
Similar to endometriosis, there are a few tests to diagnose PMDD. A pelvic exam and medical history scan can be done, however since PMDD targets emotions the most, it can be hard to diagnose.
Medical providers may ask you to keep a journal and note all of the emotions you feel around your period. Over the course of a year, at least 5 symptoms must be present during each menstrual cycle:
- Depressed mood
- Anger or irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Increased appetite
- Insomnia or fatigue
- Feeling out of control
- Symptoms that can alter your work, school, or social performance, and can be damaging to relationships
How is PMDD Treated?
PMDD can and should be treated. There is no cure, however, there’s a few holistic ways to help PMDD symptoms, such as changing your diet to provide more protein and carbs, stress management, and exercise. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe birth control pills, vitamin supplements (like B6 or magnesium), or sometimes SSRIs (anti-depression and anti-anxiety pills).
“My mom recommended that I go to an OBGYN. I told them the emotions I was feeling, and when I was feeling them. They brought me a booklet to make sure I was describing PMDD and feeling the similar symptoms, since there is so little knowledge about it. Once they had diagnosed me, they prescribed me Prozac.
I’m now 6 months from my diagnosis, and it’s still a struggle during my period. However, informing others around me about PMDD and what that looks like personally helps tremendously. PMDD is different for everyone. I highly recommend joining Facebook groups - it makes you feel not so alone as there really are so many of us out here that struggle with it unknowingly.”
- Olivia, 22, she/her
Our information is just based on research and stories of friends that have PMDD. If you have any questions, concerns, think you may have PMDD, or are struggling with mental illness, please consult with a health care provider!