Premenstrual dysphoric disorder affects about 8% of menstruating women.

Otherwise known as PMDD, this disorder differs from the more well-known premenstrual syndrome or PMS. PMDD is more intense and interferes with your quality of life, including job performance and relationships.

Are you wanting to learn more about PMDD, but don’t know where to start? This article explores more about PMDD, so read on.

What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

According to research, 75% of women experience uncomfortable symptoms leading up to their menstrual cycle, which is called PMS.

PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, and causes disruptions and debilitates women from leading a healthy life. This is one of the markers that distinguish PMDD from PMS.

PMDD is classified as a psychiatric disorder, more specifically, a depressive disorder. This means the PMDD has characteristics of clinical depression.

The cause of PMDD is not precisely known. However, some doctors believe there is a relationship between the hormones that are produced during menstruation and the chemicals in the brain. It’s possible that while a women’s reproductive hormones usually are producing, the chemicals in the brain, like serotonin, are not.

PMDD Symptoms

The main difference between PMDD and PMS are the symptoms. Certain symptoms and some overlap mark both PMS and PMDD, but in PMDD, the symptoms are more extreme. Symptoms of PMDD show up around 1-2 weeks before menstruation begins.

You might notice that some of the symptoms of PMDD overlap with PMS symptoms, but with PMDD, these symptoms are more profound.

Here are some symptoms of PMDD:

  • Anxiety
  • Breast tenderness
  • Emotional instability, crying and feeling sensitive to rejection
  • Extreme irritability and anger, so much that it affects relationships with your loved ones
  • Depression
  • Bloated
  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Feeling out of control
  • Headaches
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Food cravings or changes in appetite
  • Disinterest in usual activities or withdrawing from social events
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Cramping
  • Feelings of hopelessness or self-deprecating
  • Swelling in parts of the body
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Tension with others
  • Overly sensitive

In some cases, women might have suicidal thoughts. If this is the case, there are hotlines available. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online here.

This is not an exhaustive list, so if you are having other symptoms that are unlisted, talk to your doctor.

Is There Treatment for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

There are a few options when it comes to treating PMDD.

Because premenstrual dysphoric disorder is recognized as a psychiatric disorder, treatment usually consists of taking an SSRI, which is a type of antidepressant. Types of birth controls and hormones are also possible treatments. Your doctor will determine which route of treatment is right for you based on your symptoms and medical history.

There are some side effects associated with SSRIs, birth control, and hormones:

  • Bleeding
  • High blood pressure
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Insomnia

Some dietary supplements could help, such as evening primrose oil or calcium, but they have limited research. Vitamin B6 has some promising research as a treatment, but the research is still ongoing.

When taking medication, some women will only need to take it a week or two before menstruation begins. Others may need to take it the whole month. Follow the directions, and if you notice changes or treatment isn’t working, consult your doctor.

Healthy habits like diet and exercise might lessen symptoms and make you feel better. Gentle yoga, reducing your salt and sugar intake, and positive stress management skills can go a long way. If you do struggle with stress, you may find the information over on Kava Guides to be useful in helping you find a supplement you could add into your daily routine to help you manage this. However, it should be noted that these have limited research and should not be seen as ‘cures.’

Some people might benefit from the combination therapy, such as counseling, which focuses on cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is training people to think differently.

If you’re looking for more information on PMDD treatments, check out this PMDD guide.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Diagnosis

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether your symptoms are PMS, PMDD, or something else entirely. The only way to get an office PMDD diagnosis is through your doctor.

When you schedule a consultation with your doctor, you’ll discuss your symptoms. They’ll likely ask you to keep track of your symptoms in a journal or keep a mood chart. This will help them understand how often your symptoms take place and what to do about it.

Tracking your symptoms is important because sometimes there are other causes for your symptoms like depression or others. Doctors need to rule out other possibilities to make a proper diagnosis

Once your doctor understands how your symptoms manifest over a few months, they can make a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan.

If you’re interested in taking supplements in conjunction with the prescribed, talk to your doctor before starting a supplement regimen.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a psychiatric disorder, so a blood test cannot confirm it. It cannot be prevented, only controlled, and there’s no known cure.

Why You Should Care About PMDD

The premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a very serious mental health issue that disrupts the lives of women and makes them miserable. PMS is severe enough, but PMDD makes everything harder and, for some women, impossible. Getting help and treatment is the best course of action to help you live a better-functioning life.

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