Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

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.

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How can I help myself?

There are various things you can try to reduce the impact PMDD has on your life. This page covers:

Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If something isn't working for you (or doesn't feel possible just now), you can try something else, or come back to it another time.

Talk to someone you trust

It may be that just having someone listen to you and show you they care can help in itself.

  • Stay in touch. If you don't feel up to seeing people in person, or talking, send a text or email to keep in touch with friends and family.
  • Keep talking. It might feel hard at first, but many people find that sharing their experiences can help them feel better.

Unfortunately, some people feel uncomfortable discussing anything to do with reproductive health, as it's often considered to be something quite private, or even taboo – despite being a normal part of many people's everyday life. You may even feel this way yourself. This can make it even more difficult for you to open up about physical and mental health problems related to your periods. But finding the words to tell others about what's going on is usually the first step you can take towards getting help and feeling better.

Deep down I knew it was my period causing the depression, but I felt silly for admitting it. I felt like I was pathetic for being unable to deal with something that most other women have no issue with, and I didn’t want to talk about it with my female friends as they just didn’t get it.

Contact a specialist organisation

You might find it useful to contact an organisation that specialises in support and advice for PMDD. Whilst there is no a specific organisation for PMDD support in the UK, you may find it useful to visit the Gia Allemand Foundation website (an American organisation). The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome may also be useful. These organisations may be able to direct you to more sources of support.

Try peer support

Peer support brings together people who have had similar experiences, which some people find very helpful.

  • The Gia Allemand Foundation provides more information about online peer support available for women with PMDD around the world, including links to various online groups you could join if you choose to have a Facebook account.
  • Mind’s Elefriends community is a supportive online space which welcomes people with experience of all kinds of mental health problems.

See our pages on peer support for more information about what it involves, and how to find a peer support group to suit you. If you feel unsure about the idea of talking to people over the internet, you might find it useful to read our pages on how to stay safe online.

I have suffered with PMDD for 20 years but only been diagnosed for 18 months. It can be a very lonely experience and support via peer support groups has been invaluable for me, not only just to know that I wasn’t the only one going through it but to learn information about treatments.

Get to know your cycle

If your symptoms follow a pattern, you may be able to work out when you are most likely to start to experience these symptoms in the future. For example, if you notice that over the past three months your symptoms have started seven days before your period, you could try and work out when this would be for the upcoming months. Being able to predict when your symptoms may start may help you to put things in place for that time.

For example you could:

  • re-arrange stressful events and tasks for another time
  • plan relaxing activities that you know improve your mood
  • put in place a support plan that sets out how you would like to be supported in a particular situation.
  • create a self-care box.

I know my PMDD cycle like the back of my hand now and plan my days/ weeks/ month accordingly. On the days I know I’ll be bad I never plan anything important. I try and be positive about these days. I record TV programmes and films throughout the month and watch them in bed on these days. I save books and magazines to read and I have meditation apps for these days. I make sure I have the right foods in the house and also have meals that need just popping in the microwave.

Creating a self-care box (sometimes called a 'happy box')

Some people find it helpful to fill a box with things that normally cheer you up and help you to relax. You could include your favourite book or film, a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts or notes of encouragement to yourself. This can be a useful tool as it can be very difficult to come up with ideas to help you when you're feeling low.

 

Look after your emotional wellbeing

  • Manage stress. It can help to think of ways to manage pressure and build your emotional resilience (see our pages on how to manage stress for more information).
  • Try some relaxation techniques. Learning to relax can help you look after your wellbeing when you are feeling stressed, anxious or busy (see our pages on relaxation for tips you could try).
  • Spend time in nature. Being outside in green space can help you feel more in touch with your surroundings (see our pages on ecotherapy for more information)
  • Try mindfulness. Practising mindfulness could help you manage unwanted thoughts and reduce stress (see our pages on mindfulness for more information).

I made a decision that I was going to accept I have PMDD and make positive lifestyle changes to try and live as happily and stress-free as I could. It took a few years and was not an easy process... [Now] I work part-time nannying, but on my terms. A complete turnaround from my previous jobs. If I focused on the negative of these choices I might say it’s not the life I had planned for myself, but I try not to dwell on this.

Look after your physical health

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences. (See our pages on coping with sleep problems for more information).
  • Think about your diet. Eating regularly and keeping your blood sugar stable can make a difference to your mood and energy levels. (See our pages on food and mood for more information).
  • Try and take some exercise. If you are experiencing physical symptoms you may find it difficult to exercise, but research has shown that exercise can help reduce symptoms of depression. You may also find that it might help you to relax. (See our pages on physical activity and exercise for more information).

My diet has changed loads too. I gave up red meat and try to eat no sugar [and drink] hardly any alcohol. I exercise when I can and find meditation and yoga really helpful.


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.


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