Note: This article is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure PMDD (or any condition for that matter). It is merely to provide information and to shed more light on what is still an unknown problem for a lot of women. Always consult a medical professional for help.
Most women experience symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) during their menstrual cycles. We all know the common symptoms; cramps, mood swings, irritability, and bloating, to name a few. The women who are lucky only experience these symptoms mildly, with little thought or consequence.
But there is a small population of women who suffer greatly through certain times of their cycles. These women experience symptoms of depression and anxiety. It is a more severe and debilitating condition than just the normal side effects of PMS. The condition is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD for short. The symptoms usually occur a week or two before bleeding starts and can end in the middle or shortly after the bleeding stops. The symptoms are usually bad enough to interrupt the woman's daily activities and interfere with personal relationships.
Signs of PMDD
For women who suffer from PMDD, this can be a confusing and lonely time. The people in her life usually understand PMS symptoms, but they can't or don't understand the depth of suffering from PMDD. A woman who is normally level-headed and happy can suddenly display fits of anger, crying spells (usually over something trivial or for no apparent reason), or fatigue to the point where she can't get out of bed. Anxiety is another sign of PMDD. Some women have anxiety attacks that keep them at home, physically and emotionally unable to deal with even the simplest tasks. General irrational behavior, especially with people close to her, is another sign of PMDD. The confusing part of PMDD is the fact that the woman can experience these symptoms one day, and then the next day feels perfectly normal. The normality continues until her body cycles again.
Do You Suffer from PMDD?
If you are a woman reading this and you think you may be suffering from PMDD, the first step is to see your gynecologist for a complete examination to rule out any other problems. Talk to your gynecologist about your symptoms. As difficult as it may be, you need to tell him or her as much as possible. Do not rule out the idea of a psychiatric evaluation either. PMDD is complicated because it closely resembles depression or anxiety disorder, but what separates it is the fact that the behavior does not occur during the rest of the month (not around your period).
Another important step is to keep a journal. You need to keep track of your emotional well-being and changes throughout the month. Write down everything you can and see if you notice a pattern after a few months. Most gynecologists will ask you to do this anyway to determine if it is in fact PMDD, so get into the habit of writing at least a few times a week if not daily. In addition to how you feel, note what you are eating throughout the month. PMDD can affect cravings and you might notice a spike in craving carbohydrates, salt, sugar, and caffeine before your period starts. Again, that may also be a normal sign of PMS, but it's usually more elevated with PMDD. Writing down your feelings and experiences can also have therapeutic benefits and will help you sort out what's going on.
Is there a cure for PMDD?
Currently there is still much that needs to be studied scientifically about PMDD treatment, so no, there is no cure, just like there is no cure for PMS symptoms. There are some suggestions on behaviors and lifestyle changes to cope or minimize the symptoms of PMDD:
Eating habits â€“ good nutrition may be able to help women who suffer from PMDD. Vitamin supplements such as B vitamins have also been suggested.
Exercise â€“ this is a given. Regular exercise is suggested for PMS symptoms as well, and it certainly can't hurt if someone is suffering from PMDD.
Meditation/yoga â€“ this may assist especially in the anxiety part of the symptoms. Deep breathing, a few minutes of daily meditation, and regular yoga a few times a week can help calm and de-stress.
Any of the above suggestions are good lifestyle habits anyway, so if you think you suffer from PMDD try to get into the habit of eating well and exercising regularly. One other treatment your doctor may recommend is an anti-depressant and/or anti-anxiety drug. Although this has not been proven to treat PMDD, it may help alleviate some of the drastic emotional swings that can occur.
If you feel like you have PMDD Symptoms, don't feel like you are alone. Consult your doctor and don't feel ashamed to tell him or her how you feel. If your doctor or gynecologist has never heard of PMDD or dismisses it because there is still not much research on the subject, don't give up. The more PMDD is brought to light, the more we can begin to understand how to treat it.