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Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

This blog post hopes to provide information on a form of depression called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

Chances are if you are female you’ve had some type of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) since you started your periods. Doctors estimate that as many as three-quarters of menstruating women have some signs of PMS - whether it’s food cravings, cramps, tender breasts, moodiness, or fatigue.

But Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is different. It causes emotional and physical symptoms, like PMS, but women with PMDD find their symptoms debilitating, and they often interfere with their daily lives, including work, school, social life, and relationships. It is estimated to effect 3-8% of menstruating women.

Researchers don’t know the exact cause of PMDD. Most, however, think it may be an abnormal reaction to hormone changes related to your menstrual cycle. Studies have shown a connection between PMDD and low levels of serotonin - a neurotransmitter which helps regulate mood, attention, sleep, and pain.

The symptoms of PMDD usually show up the week before you start your period and last until a few days after it begins. Most of the time they are severe and debilitating, and they can keep you from daily activities.

Symptoms of PMDD include:

  • Mood swings

  • Depression or feelings of hopelessness

  • Intense anger and conflict with other people

  • Tension, anxiety, and irritability

  • Decreased interest in usual activities

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Fatigue

  • Change in appetite

  • Feeling out of control

  • Sleep problems

  • Cramps and bloating

  • Breast tenderness

  • Headaches

  • Joint or muscle pain

  • Hot flashes

Some people with PMDD find it hard to explain what they're going through, and it's particularly difficult when others dismiss their experiences as "just that time of the month" or "just something all women experience". These misconceptions are not true, but it can make it very hard for anyone who experiences PMDD to open up about how they're feeling. It is important to understand that PMDD can have a large effect on someone's life. The symptoms are very real, and can be very difficult to cope with. Getting a diagnosis can also be a slow process - which can bring about added frustrations. The GP will want to discuss your health history and do a physical examination. They will also ask you to keep a calendar or diary of your symptoms for a few months.

Common treatments for PMDD include:

  • Antidepressants

  • Hormone therapy (birth control pills)

  • Changes in diet

  • Regular exercise

  • Stress management

  • Vitamin supplements

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines

  • Some over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help some symptoms such as headache, breast tenderness, backache, and cramping.

  • Diuretics, also called “water pills,” can help with fluid retention and bloating.

  • Counselling may also be useful to help deal with coping strategies.

  • Relaxation therapy, meditation, reflexology, and yoga might provide relief - but these haven’t been widely studied.


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