Bloating. Headaches. Moodiness. These symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are well known, likely because more than 90% of women experience at least one symptom during their monthly cycle every single month. But for a smaller group of women, they are dealing with a lesser-known and more severe disorder which prevents them from going about their everyday lives.
Dubbed the “evil twin” of PMS, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a largely understudied and misunderstood condition affecting approximately 5% of the menstruating population today.
According to Mind.org, PMDD can be defined as “a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can cause many emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before you start your period”.
Although women have been battling this condition for generations, PMDD has only been recognised as a clinical mental health condition in the last six years!
As with PMS, the exact cause of PMDD is not known, however, most researchers believe that it may be brought on by the hormonal changes related to the menstrual cycle.
The menstrual cycle can make for a minefield of emotions caused by hormonal changes. Hormones fluctuate every single day of your cycle. This hormonal rollercoaster can affect neurotransmitters in your brain, such as serotonin and dopamine which are associated with mood regulation. Low levels of estrogen have a knock-on effect on the levels of serotonin which affects our mood.
In some severe cases, this can lead to PMDD.
What is the difference between PMS and PMDD?
PMDD and PMS are closely linked with many similar symptoms which from the outset, can make it even more difficult to distinguish between the two.
The key difference between PMS and PMDD lies in the severity of symptoms and how the symptoms impact daily life.
PMS includes the emotional and physical symptoms that occur each month during the second half of the menstrual cycle. While these symptoms can cause interference to day-to-day life, they can often be managed with certain lifestyle changes and typically resolve with the onset of menstrual flow or shortly after.
In contrast, PMDD, a hormone-based mood disorder, is a much more severe form of PMS with symptoms ranging from anger, irritability, hopelessness, anxiety and feeling out of control, to name just a few. These symptoms are often significant enough to interfere with personal relationships and heavily impact day-to-day living.
When determining if you may have PMDD, it can be helpful to ask the following questions:
If you found yourself answering yes to any of these questions and they are impacting your day to day life, the next step is to reach out to your GP for advice on next steps and treatment.
What are the symptoms of PMDD?
Just like PMS, the symptoms of PMDD can vary largely for each woman however there are many commonly reported symptoms that are important to look out for.
PMDD can be made up of one or a mixture of psychological, physical and behavioural symptoms. According to Harvard Medical School, a diagnosis of PMDD should include five or more of the following:
- Sudden mood changes
- Anxiety or tension
- Decreased energy
- Irritability or increased interpersonal conflicts
- Physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness or bloating, joint pain or weight gain
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Food cravings or changes in appetite
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
Intricately woven into the current state of your mental health, PMDD symptoms can often mimic those of major depression. This means that those suffering from PMDD can also take on the risks of major depression such as an increased risk of suicide during the two weeks they are affected. This is reflected in the alarming statistic that shows 15% of women with PMDD attempt suicide.
How to manage PMDD
Just like with other mental health disorders, the good news is that there is help and hope out there for the women who are impacted.
While there is no“one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to managing PMDD, there are ways to help manage or alleviate some of the symptoms through lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise & supplements and by seeking help from professionals and those around you.
The phrase “you are what you eat” can be jarring to hear at times, especially when you crave nothing more than your favourite sugary treat however there is truth in the message that what you put into your body has an effect on how we feel.
Paying attention to our sugar, alcohol and caffeine levels is important in helping to manage PMDD symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes and anxiety. You can help support dipped blood sugar and energy levels which typically occur prior to menstruation by eating little but often and skipping sugary processed foods in favour of a natural alternative.
We believe that a healthy brain is a happy brain and it is important to feed it with foods that boost our mood and energy levels.
Support your brain health by adding the following to your daily diet:
- Essential Fatty Acids: Helps fight memory loss and depression
- Magnesium & Calcium: Manages stress levels in the body
- Vitamin B12: Vital for nervous system health
- Vitamin D: Key for nervous and immune systems
Name a time where you got up off the couch to exercise and regretted it.
When we are feeling low, stressed or tired, often the last thing we want to do is pull on our gym gear however there is no denying the positive effects it can have on our mind and body once we do it.
Exercise is one of the best ways to get feel-good endorphins pumping around your body. With just 30 minutes every single day, you could help reduce stress, improve your self-confidence and increase your relaxation levels.
While there is not yet enough research to recommend supplements as effective treatments for PMDD, according to WomensMentalHealth.org, there have been some studies which have shown that certain nutritional supplements such as Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium have improved PMDD symptoms.
Our monthly cycle supplement Triumph contains your recommended daily allowance in each of these as well as 55 other key vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and herbal extracts to support you along with each phase of the menstrual cycle.
Before finding Triumph, many of our customers dealt with disruptive symptoms including mood swings, low energy, debilitating headaches and so much more, every single month.
You can read about their real stories here.
Reach out for Help
PMDD can be a scary reality for those living with it and can also be alienating.
Because of the lack of research and stigma attached to disorders such as PMDD, many women around the world today continue to downplay what is happening to them and often don’t seek the help they need.
Reaching out and talking about your experience is a vital component in dealing with both PMS and PMDD.
If you feel any abnormal changes to your mood or wellbeing, talk to a GP, friend, family member, co-worker or external support and share the load. Aware, Samaritans, Mental Health Ireland, Pieta and SpunOut are just some of the many organisations in Ireland offering support and information and they are there for you today.
Remember, if you are experiencing these symptoms, or any of this sounds familiar, we urge you to reach out to your GP. They can rule out other possible causes, help you track your symptoms and cycles, and find a treatment plan that works for you.
If you enjoyed this blog, why not check out our similar posts:
- How Periods Could Be Making A Bloody Mess of Your Mental Health
- Skin vs Menstrual Cycle: A Modern Day Tale of Fear, Loathing & Hormones
- Tips for Coping with Self-Isolation When The PMS Struggle is Real