Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition that affects up to 8% of menstruating women. It is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that can significantly disrupt daily life. PMDD is a hormonal-based disorder, with symptoms appearing in a week or two leading up to menstruation and then subsiding after menstruation starts.
Symptoms of PMDD can include mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability, anger, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and physical symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches. These symptoms can be severe enough to affect personal relationships, work performance, and daily activities.
PMDD is a relatively new diagnosis, having only been formally recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013. Before then, it was often dismissed as PMS, which was seen as a mild condition that could be managed with over-the-counter painkillers or simple lifestyle changes.
However, PMDD is a much more severe condition than PMS, and it requires a more nuanced approach to treatment. While the exact cause of PMDD is not known, it is thought to be related to the fluctuation of hormones during the menstrual cycle, specifically estrogen and progesterone.
One of the challenges in diagnosing PMDD is that the symptoms can mimic those of other conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It is essential to rule out these other conditions before a PMDD diagnosis can be made.
To diagnose PMDD, a healthcare provider will typically ask about the symptoms, perform a physical exam, and may order blood tests to rule out other conditions. A diary of symptoms can also be helpful in tracking the severity and timing of symptoms.
Treatment for PMDD can vary depending on the severity of symptoms and the individual’s response to treatment. Some lifestyle changes that can help manage PMDD include regular exercise, a healthy diet, and stress reduction techniques such as yoga or meditation. Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help with physical symptoms, while hormonal birth control can regulate hormone fluctuations.
For more severe cases, prescription medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or hormone therapy may be prescribed. In some cases, psychotherapy or counselling may be recommended to help manage the emotional and psychological symptoms of PMDD.
It is also essential for those with PMDD to have a support system, whether it be family, friends, or a healthcare provider. Talking about PMDD and the impact it has on daily life can help reduce stigma and promote understanding.
PMDD can have a significant impact on the lives of those who experience it, but it is a manageable condition with the right treatment and support. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe premenstrual symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention to rule out other conditions and receive proper diagnosis and treatment.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.