It is no secret that having a period is hard work—just hop over to any social media outlet and you’ll find plenty of jokes and cartoons illustrating just how difficult women have it during “that time of the month.” However, have you ever considered that there is an actual condition that could be worse than just the normal period symptoms of bleeding and bloating? Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a condition that affects as much as 8 percent of all women who have a period.
What Is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?
According to Medline Plus, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD is a harsh, oftentimes debilitating condition where a woman experiences severe depression, stress, tension and heightened irritability around 5-10 days before her period. Oftentimes, on top of regular physical PMS symptoms, PMDD can cause dramatic mood swings as well as depression that are more heightened than average symptoms during that time. Although the symptoms usually only last for a short time and not throughout the whole month, they can be a hindrance to both the affected and their loved ones.
What Is the Difference Between PMDD and PMS?
There are often a lot of similarities between these two conditions and premenstrual dysphoric disorder PMDD is often written off as simply PMS. Although their symptoms start out similarly (bloating, fatigue and tender breasts), there are emotional and behavioral symptoms that make PMDD stand out. Although women who experience normal PMS symptoms may experience sadness or mood swings, those who suffer from PMDD have all of them heightened to an extreme level, often causing anxiety.
Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Some of the premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms overlap with PMS but are always more extreme. At least 5 symptoms from the following list have to be present in an individual in order for them to be diagnosed.
- An onset of apathy, lack of interest or desire for daily activities or lack of joy in your relationships
- Increased fatigue
- Feeling sad or hopeless, even considering thoughts of suicide
- Extreme tension and anxiety or panic attacks.
- Feeling as if you have no control over your environment or yourself
- Craving different, potentially odd foods
- Rapid and extreme mood swings; increased amounts of crying/sadness
- Being irritable and easily angered to the point of distancing yourself from others
- Physical problems (bloating, soreness in breasts, muscle pain, headaches)
- Insomnia or trouble falling asleep at night
- Issues with concentrating and paying attention to daily tasks and work.
A dysphoric mood is defined by Wisegeek.org as a mental condition where people feel chronically depressed, anxious, sad and lonely. Feeling dysphoric is one of the main side effects of PMDD, and although it can happen by itself, it is often a sign that you could be developing this disorder.
Sometimes the symptoms may be so severe that they interfere with the sufferer’s ability to perform at her daily life. Oftentimes women who suffer from depression have worse symptoms when it comes to the second half of their monthly cycle, and frequently they will need a change in medication if this is the case. Suicide is also more likely to happen during this time if a woman is struggling with these thoughts. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or a suicide hotline and talk to someone immediately. It has also been questioned whether or not PMDD is linked to smoking and/or eating disorders.
Causes of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
The cause for PMDD has not officially been found yet; however it may have something to do with individual women’s hormonal changes during their period. Sometimes preexisting conditions can play a role in whether or not women develop this disorder, and sometimes other things can contribute. Some things that may cause PMDD development are:
- A previous problem with anxiety and panic attacks
- A previous battle with severe depression
- An onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Being overweight, not exercising or overall living an unhealthy lifestyle
- Ingesting a large amount of caffeine daily
- Having a history of this problem with either your mother or grandmother (genetics)
How Is It Tested?
There have yet to be any tests developed in order to officially diagnose Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. A complete medical history will have to be provided as well as a thorough medical examination which will likely include a pelvic exam. This is done not to necessarily diagnose but to rule out all other issues first. One way that you can help your heath care provider diagnose PMDD is to keep a diary or journal of your symptoms, how severe they are, when they occur and how long they last, especially if you start to suspect that you are being affected by the disorder.
Natural PMDD Treatment
First of all, it is most beneficial to consider a premenstrual dysphoric disorder natural treatment. Overall, implementing a healthy lifestyle is the best and most successful treatment you can utilize. A few things you might consider are:
- Eating healthier food taking particular consideration to adding whole grains, fruits, vegetables and subtracting sodium, sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Try to do aerobic and cardio exercise daily throughout the month to help reduce the symptoms as well as increase health benefits.
- Improving your sleep pattern can also make a huge impact on reducing the symptoms. Getting seven or eight hours per night is optimal to get the greatest benefit. Also, taking medication for insomnia to help you get better, more solid sleep can also help.
- Also, trying to avoid overly emotional situations, such as arguments, dwelling on financial problems or relationship issues can help lower your stress and alleviate the symptoms.
There are many other treatment options to consider that are not as natural but still just as effective.
- Birth control stops your ovulation and stabilizes your hormones ultimately reducing the emotional symptoms in women.
- Taking water pills or diuretics could be useful for women that gain a lot of water weight.
- Taking in about 1,200 milligrams of dietary supplements and calcium every day can help reduce symptoms. Also consider taking some herbal remedies that can help with anger and mood swings. Some important supplements to consider are:
- Vitamin B-6
- Certain SSRI anti-depressants can also help reduce fatigue, sleep problems and cravings.
- Fluoxetine (which is found in name brand Prozac and Sarafem)
- Sertraline (which is found in Zoloft)
- Pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can reduce some discomfort that may be experienced from the physical symptoms.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be utilized alongside or instead of antidepressants. During this treatment, visit with a mental health professional regularly over a number of weeks.
The FDA does not regulate herbal and dietary supplements, so be sure to talk with your doctor before you decide to implement them into your lifestyle.
Knowing How to Cope
Regardless of the types of treatment you try, it is still important that you carry on living life. Complete the steps necessary to help you overcome this problem in order for it to not become debilitating to your life. Implementing the natural stress relievers such as yoga, relaxation and getting adequate sleep can help. When battling the depression side of things consider going to a group meeting and surrounding yourself with upbeat family members who understand what you are going through and are willing to help. Although it may take 3 or 4 cycles to really figure out a method that helps you or to start seeing results, it is important not to give up hope.
Overall, just knowing that you are not alone is the biggest key. There are lots of women who struggle with this same disorder and who experience the same sort of consequences that you do. According to psychguides.com, you should consider going online to find chat rooms and other support groups to help vent and connect with others who are struggling as well. It is important to realize that it is primarily a brain and hormone issue and it is not the fault of the sufferer.
It is clear that Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a debilitating disorder that causes those who are affected by it a lot of grief. It affects everyone in completely different ways, so it is important to find a coping mechanism that works the best for you. Being able to take charge of your condition and not allowing it to take over your life and happiness is going to be the source for learning to live with this disorder. If you have any questions or are concerned that you may be experiencing PMDD, contact your health care provider, and begin taking the necessary steps to get back on a track to a happy, stress-free life.