Explains what PMDD is and explores issues around getting a diagnosis. Also provides information on self care and treatment options, and how friends and family can help.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is 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. It is sometimes referred to as 'severe PMS'.
While many people who are able to have periods may experience some mild symptoms of PMS, if you have PMDD these symptoms are much worse and can have a serious impact on your life. Experiencing PMDD can make it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships. In some cases, it can also lead to suicidal thoughts.
"The best way for me to describe it is that – once a month – I decided to press my own ‘self-destruct’ button and literally let my life (my normally very happy and satisfying life...) implode around me. Then when the dark thoughts lifted and completely cleared, I spent the next 2 weeks trying to pick up the pieces."
If you have PMDD, you might find that you experience some of symptoms listed below. But it's different for different people, so you might also experience other kinds of feelings which aren't listed here.
You will typically only experience these symptoms for a week or two before your period starts. The symptoms follow your menstrual cycle, so you might find they start to get better when you get your period and will usually have disappeared by the time your period is finished.
"In the depths of my PMDD I tend to just retreat to my bed – I get very depressed and my anxiety goes sky high. I get hugely fatigued and can’t keep my eyes open – I sleep for about 18 hours a day."
The exact causes are still not fully understood but some possible factors are:
Some other research has shown that in some cases PMDD may be linked to stressful and traumatic past events (such as emotional or physical abuse), but there's no evidence to explain how or why.
"It very much got worse as I went into my 30s and by my mid-30s I was losing 3 days going downhill, a week in a depression feeling like I was going through a bereavement, and then a few days to recover and feeling like I’ve been chewed up and spat out. It’s exhausting to know that once it passes you have to brace yourself for it all to happen all over again in a couple of weeks' time."
PMDD is commonly defined as an endocrine disorder, meaning that it is a hormone-related disorder. But as well as physical symptoms, people with PMDD also experience a range of different mental health symptoms such as depression and suicidal feelings. For these reasons, it has recently been listed as a mental health problem in the DSM-5 (one of the main manuals that doctors use to categorise and diagnose mental health problems).
Watch Laura talk about her experiences of PMDD, and what she's found helpful:
This information was published in September 2017. We will revise it in 2020.
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