Think It’s Just Really Bad PMS? It May be PMDD

PMDDYou may be familiar with the cramping, headaches, and irritability that accompany your monthly cycle, but what you're dismissing as standard PMS may actually be PMDD. Find out so you can talk to your doctor about treatment.  

What is PMDD?

PMS has become sort of a catch-all term that we often misuse to describe what's happening on a bad day. New research is now giving credibility to a condition called PMDD. PMDD (or premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is a rare, but significantly severe (sometimes debilitating) form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that occurs in about 2 – 10% of menstruating women. Studies have indicated that women who have a personal or family history of depression may be at greater risk for having PMDD.

Recently, psychiatrists have given formal recognition to PMDD by listing it in their DSM-5 (Diagnostical and Statistical Manual) which now counts PMDD as an officially recognized mental disorder.

What Causes PMDD?

Although the exact causes are not yet entirely known, some research has indicated that PMDD could be connected to the hormonal changes of your menstrual cycle. Low levels of serotonin (which controls pain, mood, focus and sleep) are also thought to be connected with PMDD.

Doctors who have tracked women who are thought to have PMDD, note that these symptoms appear to begin at the luteal phase of their menstrual cycle and the first day of their period.

How Do I Know if I have PMDD?

Watch closely for symtoms and talk to your doctor if you're concerned. Symptoms may include:

  • extreme mood swings
  • outbursts of anger
  • unexplained feelings of conflict
  • a sense of hopelessness
  • changes in appetite
  • sever depression
  • acute tension, anxiety or irritability
  • fatigue or sleep issues
  • physical pain and/or bloating
  • difficulty focusing

On the surface, this list of symptoms may appear quite general and many of them likely apply to almost any person on any given day. However, if your cumulative symptoms seem severe and you suspect you might be suffering from PMDD, you should always visit your doctor for a thorough medical examination and evaluation.

How is PMDD Treated?

The good news is, if your doctor does diagnose you with PMDD, there are many different means for treating this condition, some of which include making nutritional changes, exercise, medications (for more severe cases) and/or counseling that will help in developing coping strategies for dealing with it’s symptoms.