Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

A person with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) experiences PMS symptoms before their period (bloating, headaches, and breast tenderness). However, PMDD can also cause severe anxiety, depression, and severe mood swings. It is not uncommon for people with PMDD to experience suicidal tendencies.  Symptoms can be relieved by hormonal birth control and antidepressants.

How different is PMDD to PMS?

Symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are more severe than those of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In the week or two before your period, it causes physical and emotional symptoms. Symptoms of PMS include bloating, headaches, and tender breasts.

You might suffer from PMDD if you suffer from PMS symptoms and anxiety, depression, or extreme irritability.  Symptoms usually subside within a few days of your period, but they may be severe enough to interfere with your daily routine.

How common is the condition

Up to 10% of women or people assigned female at birth (AFAB) of reproductive age suffer from PMDD. PMDD, a chronic disease, can severely affect a woman’s quality of life.

What causes PMDD?

Researchers believe PMDD is caused by being highly sensitive to variations in hormone levels, although the exact causes are still unclear. PMDD is associated with increased sensitivity to hormonal changes that occur during your monthly cycle, according to recent research.

  • Genetics. Some research suggests that increased sensitivity to changes in hormone levels may be caused by genetic variations.
  • Smoking. Some research suggests that smoking can have an impact on your hormone sensitivity.
  • Trauma and stress. Researchers have found that PMDD may be associated with stressful and traumatic past events, such as abuse. Stress may also make your PMDD symptoms worse.

Symptoms of PMDD

PMDD symptoms vary from person to person. It usually appears a week or two before menstruation and disappears once your period begins. You may also experience PMS symptoms such as cramps and bloating

  • Extreme anger and/or irritability.
  • Feeling on edge, overwhelmed or tense.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Fatigue and low energy.
  • Food cravings, binge eating or changes in appetite.  This may also extend to episodes of severe digestive problems, from constipation to wind.
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Severe mood swings

Physical and behavioural experiences

  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • pain in your muscles and joints
  • headaches
  • feeling bloated
  • changes in your appetite, such as overeating or having specific food cravings
  • sleep problems
  • increased anger or conflict with people around you
  • becoming very upset if you feel that others are rejecting you.

If you are pregnant, you are unlikely to experience PMDD symptoms due to the fact that PMDD is linked to your menstrual cycle. However, once you start ovulating again, the symptoms might return.

How will this condition affect me?

PMDD is not only emotionally draining. The condition can cause severe physical exhaustion and brain fog, which can make it more difficult for sufferers to be productive. The stress of this can further strain relationships at home and at work, where they may have difficulty carrying their weight for a period of time each month and others must cover for them.

Most people with PMDD are able to enjoy life more fully after receiving treatment for their symptoms. You may also benefit from speaking with your GP. The majority of women do not experience symptoms after menopause.

If you need urgent advice you can:

  • call a GP and ask for an emergency appointment
  • call 111 out of hours (they will help you find the support and help you need)
  • call a helpline, such as the Samaritans (call free on 116 123)

If you feel that you may be about to harm yourself, call 999 for an ambulance or go straight to A&E. Or you can ask someone else to call 999 or take you to A&E.


Tags: Anxiety, brain fog, depression, fatigue, mental health, PMDD, PMDD symptoms, PMS, suicidal thoughts

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