This section is for friends and family who want to support someone they know with PMDD.
If you are supporting a friend or relative who is experiencing PMDD it can sometimes be hard to know what you can do to help. This page lists some things you could try.
Take it seriously
Some women 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 women 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.
I still can’t bring myself to tell a lot of friends and colleagues what has gone on, due to the pervading attitude of ‘women’s problems / it’s just your period’.
Try to understand
- Find out as much as you can about PMDD. This will help you understand what they are going through. Reading about people's personal experiences in blogs can help too.
- Ask them about their personal experience of living with PMDD. You could ask them how PMDD affects their life and what things can make it better or worse. Listening to their experience might help you to understand how they feel.
My relationships with friends and family have suffered too. I have a terrible relationship with my sister because she just refuses to understand or acknowledge my PMDD. I’m fortunate my parents are as understanding as they can be, but for a non-PMDD sufferer PMDD is really difficult to understand.
Ask them what helps
PMDD can affect people in different ways, so it's important to ask what things they would find most helpful. They may just want your emotional support or there may be specific practical things you could do that could help them cope. For example, they may find it helps if you offer to take some of the pressure off them by helping out with daily tasks such as household chores or food shopping.
Even with support, someone with PMDD may be irritable at times and act differently than they normally do. It can be hard to support someone if they do not appear to appreciate the help you are trying to offer. It's not easy, but you may find that you need to be a bit more patient than usual. Remember that this won't last forever and their symptoms should get better within a few days.
When they experience their symptoms, they might say or do things that upset you. If this happens, it can be helpful to try to wait until after the symptoms have passed before bringing it up so that they may feel more able to cope with talking about it.
When they experience symptoms, you can try to reassure them that the symptoms will soon pass, that you are there to support them and that they are not on their own. Often just knowing that there is someone around who understands helps a lot.
Some people with PMDD experience suicidal feelings. This can be difficult to cope with, for both of you. See our pages on supporting someone with suicidal feelings for information about how you can help in this situation.
My partner is very supportive and that helps so much and really does mean the world to me. He makes my world feel very safe when I feel very lost.
Plan around their monthly cycle
Many people only experience symptoms for one to two weeks of every month. If you can predict when the symptoms are likely to start, you may want to plan things in advance that might help. For example, you could schedule time to help out with daily chores, plan activities that may help them to relax or just make sure that people will be around to offer their support. It might also help to avoid planning any activities during that time that they might find difficult.
Support them to seek help
Supporting your friend or loved one to seek help can be really important. It can help to remind them that PMDD is a recognised condition like many others, and that they deserve treatment and support. You can read our information on treatment options and self-care, and encourage them to seek help from their GP (see our pages on how to support someone else to seek help for more information).
Not all healthcare professionals are aware of PMDD or fully understand it, so women can sometimes face barriers to getting the treatment and support they deserve. Knowing that you're in their corner to support them could help them keep trying if they do face barriers. You could even consider becoming their advocate (see our pages on advocacy for more information).
Look after yourself
It can sometimes be really challenging to support someone, and it's common to feel overwhelmed at times. It's important to remember to look after your own mental health too, so you have the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help your friend or family member.
- Set boundaries and don't take too much on. If you become unwell yourself you won't be able to offer as much support. It is also important to decide what your limits are and how much you are able to help them. (See our pages on how to manage stress for more information.)
- Share your caring role with others, if you can. It's often easier to support someone if you're not doing it alone.
- Talk to others about how you’re feeling. You may want to be careful about how much information you share about the person you’re supporting, but talking about your own feelings with someone you trust can help you feel supported too.
See our pages on how to cope when supporting someone else for more suggestions on what you can do, and where you can go for support.
This information was published in September 2017 – to be revised in 2020. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.