PMDD: Uncovering the Silence
That time of the month again?? Grrrreeeeaaaaat.
Anyone who has had a period knows how stressful it can be. If you are not part of the lucky ones who don’t get to experience any pain or discomfort, then you’ll definitely know what we’re talking about.
But one thing that isn’t spoken about as much is a serious condition that is often brushed aside as “severe PMS”. This condition causes many people to miss work, school, or daily life because of the immense physical, emotional, and psychological distress it can cause.
We’re talking about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
What is PMDD?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a health problem that shares a number of similarities with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but it’s far more serious.
Symptoms of PMDD often start a week or two before your period starts, and can cause severe irritability, depression, or anxiety. These symptoms usually fade away a couple of days after your period starts. The effects of PMDD can be so severe they can stop you from carrying out your normal day-to-day activities.
What causes it?
Researchers aren’t completely sure about what causes PMDD, but it is believed that hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle do play a part. Serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates moods, social behavior, appetite, sleep, and several other important body functions, could also be responsible for the effects of PMDD and PMS.
Symptoms of the condition include:
- Irritability or anger that lasts for long periods of time – can also affect other people
- Deep feelings of sadness or despair; suicidal thoughts can occur or even thoughts of suicide
- Tension or feeling anxious
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings or continuous crying
- Lack of interest in usual activities and relationships
- Struggling to focus
- Fatigue and/or low energy
- Intense food cravings
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling helpless or out of control
- Physical symptoms: cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
If you experience five or more of these symptoms, and they keep you from being able to carry out your day-to-day activities, please see a doctor as soon as possible.
How is PMDD diagnosed & treated?
One of the first things your doctor will speak to you about, is your medical history. A physical examination will follow.
It would help if you tracked your symptoms with a calendar, app, or diary – Flo is a great app to use for this.
There are a number of ways to treat PMDD, it all depends on your diagnosis.
Treatments for PMDD include:
- Antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are responsible for adjusting serotonin levels in the brain. These should only be prescribed by your doctor.
- Birth control pills.
- Over-the-counter pain reliever for physical symptoms like cramps, aches, breast tendernesst, etc.
- Stress management
Adding healthier options to your diet, and exercizing more, is said to be another good way to relieve some PMDD symtpoms. But that doesn’t work for everyone, and this is why you should speak to a doctor or nurse to discuss treatment options – provided you have access to them.
PMDD is a condition that affects millions of people, but only a fraction are aware of the condition. If you’ve been struggling to cope with your period, then there’s a chance that it’s more than just PMS. Freedom and power are found in being informed, and that’s why we penned this piece – to let more people know about this condition so that they can the help they need.