Everything you need to know about premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that typically occurs one to two weeks before your period.

Women who suffer from PMDD can experience physical symptoms and mood disturbances that are so intense they can seriously impact their daily lives and their ability to function normally. PMDD can affect their personal life, social life and relationships, their capacity to work and their ability to exercise.

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What are the symptoms?

Some of the symptoms associated with PMDD include feeling down or depressed, feeling irritable, feeling very anxious, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty sleeping, very low energy, food cravings, appetite changes, breast tenderness, body aches and bloating.

What causes PMDD?

The cause of PMDD is unknown, but research suggests that sufferers may have an increased central nervous system (CNS) sensitivity to hormone fluctuations.

For example, decreases in oestrogen can reduce serotonin release and decreases in progesterone can reduce allopregnanolone (a steroid hormone released in the brain). These are linked to increases in anxiety and depressive symptoms. Immune dysfunctions, stress and genetics may also play a part.

Myth busting

It is estimated that 3-8% of menstruating women suffer from PMDD and that 13-18% have some of the symptoms. However, some women may not know they are experiencing PMDD and may feel, or even be told, that they are just ‘hormonal’. PMDD is more than PMS. It is a potentially debilitating physiological and psychological disorder and needs to be treated properly.

Diagnosis and treatments

It is very important to get the diagnosis right for PMDD. Tracking your symptoms and how you feel every day.

Depending on the symptoms, treatment options may include anti-depressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), hormone therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and specific dietary and lifestyle changes. If you feel you may be suffering from PMDD, you should talk to your doctor to find out what are the best options for you.

Johnna Wilford