PMDD affects up to 5% of women, but what exactly is it?

Bella Heim
Bella Heim
Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 5 mins read

Allow me to guide you through a conversation that surprisingly affects up to 5% of women. Our topic today? PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. While it may sound like an alphabet soup, PMDD is far from benign for those who bear its brunt.

So, what exactly is PMDD?


PMDD is a complex health condition intricately linked to the menstrual cycle. Picture it as PMS’s more intense cousin: the symptoms might appear similar, but they’re significantly amplified, potentially wreaking havoc on a woman’s daily life. So, what exactly does PMDD entail?

At its core, PMDD is a volatile mix of hormonal fluctuations and changes in brain chemistry. As a woman journeys through her menstrual cycle, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone rise and plummet. This hormonal ride can affect serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter critical for mood regulation. The result? A barrage of emotional and physical symptoms.

An uninvited guest


And what does this uninvited guest, PMDD, do to a woman? Mood swings can sweep you off your feet, tossing you around like a ship in a tempest. Anxiety and tension become clingy pals, and irritability tends to snap at your heels. These emotional upheavals often walk hand in hand with physical discomforts like fatigue, bloating, and breast tenderness.

The impact of PMDD is more than skin-deep; it also resonates at a mental and emotional level. Many women with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder report a significant dip in their quality of life during these episodes. Relationships, work performance, and overall wellbeing – all can be adversely affected.


What does a PMDD episode look like?


So, how does a PMDD episode unfold? Imagine a serene stroll at the beach and suddenly disrupted by a storm. That’s the abruptness and severity of a PMDD episode. It typically kickstarts a week or two before menstruation, easing off a few days after the period begins.

During this episode, a woman might wrestle with intense mood swings, feelings of sadness and hopelessness, irritability, and even anger.

Physical symptoms such as headaches, joint or muscle pain, and a sense of ‘bloating’ can tag along. Sleep disturbances and concentration issues are common companions too. Each woman’s experience is unique, but one thing’s universal – it’s no walk in the park.


Is PMDD a severe mental illness?


One question that often orbits around PMDD discussions is whether it’s classified as a severe mental illness. Well, it is not. But PMDD is a chronic health condition with significant mental health implications.

The mood swings and other emotional symptoms can be intense, severely impacting a woman’s daily life and mental wellbeing. But these symptoms are usually cyclical, tied to the menstrual cycle, and temporary. Nevertheless, it’s paramount to approach PMDD with the seriousness it warrants and seek professional help if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

Managing PMDD – Strategies and treatments


How does one navigate the tumultuous seas of PMDD? Remember, you’re not alone on this road, as lonely as it may feel. There are various treatments and strategies that can help manage the symptoms, restoring balance and improving your quality of life.

Recognising and understanding your symptoms is the first step. Maintaining a symptom diary can be an invaluable tool, helping you identify patterns and triggers. Sharing this with your healthcare provider can enable a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

Lifestyle changes often take center stage in managing PMDD symptoms. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep – these are your trusty sidekicks. Minimising caffeine and alcohol intake, and quitting smoking can also make a world of difference.

In some scenarios, medications such as hormonal treatments or antidepressants may be suggested. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is another promising path that you can consider. It’s a form of psychological treatment that can help manage PMDD’s effects by transforming negative thought patterns and behaviors.

Beyond just a women’s issue


It’s essential to acknowledge that PMDD isn’t merely a women’s issue, but a societal one. The impact of PMDD can ripple out, affecting interpersonal relationships, work productivity, and societal perceptions of women’s health. Family, friends, and colleagues – everyone plays a role in understanding, supporting, and advocating for women grappling with PMDD.

Challenging stigmas, building support networks


Unfortunately, the path to understanding and acceptance isn’t always smooth. Stigma, lack of awareness, and misinformation often build walls that block the path. There’s an urgent need to dismantle these walls, enabling more open conversations about women’s health, including conditions like PMDD.

Support networks are really important in this journey. Online forums, support groups, and mental health professionals can provide comfort, advice, and companionship. Remember, no one should have to walk this path alone.

The call for more research


While our understanding of PMDD has improved over the years, there’s so much we don’t yet know. Research into the precise causes, effective treatments, and long-term effects of PMDD is still underway. The more we learn about PMDD, the better we can equip ourselves and others to manage it effectively.

An empowered future


An empowered future for women with PMDD is not just a distant dream but a possibility within our reach. Education, empathy, and effective care – these are our tools in creating this future. So let’s continue advocating, supporting, and learning. Because every step we take towards understanding PMDD is a step towards better mental health and wellbeing for women everywhere.

PMDD is a silent but significant challenge, affecting millions of women worldwide. It’s not just a medical condition, but a societal conversation that needs to be brought to the forefront.

Increased awareness, better treatments, improved support networks – these aren’t just goals, but necessities. As we move towards better understanding and care, let’s remember that every woman deserves to feel heard, seen, and supported in her health journey. And that, everyone, is a conversation worth amplifying.


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