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Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Explains what PMDD is, including possible causes, symptoms and how to access treatment and support. Includes self-care tips for helping yourself, plus guidance for friends and family.

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg. This link will take you to a Welsh translation of this page.

How can I help myself?

There are various things you can try to reduce the impact of PMDD on your life.

Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. If something doesn't feel possible just now, try something else or come back to it another time. For example:

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 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.

If you are trans or non-binary, you may find that talking to someone about periods can bring up difficult feelings about the gender you were assigned at birth. Or you may worry that it will lead people to misgender you (call you by a term that does not match your gender identity). You may find it difficult to talk about it with even close friends. How you feel about your period and how you cope with these feelings will be unique to you.

We have a list of LGBTIQ+ organisations you can reach out to if you want to speak to someone who understands your experience.

Contact a specialist organisation

You might find it useful to contact an organisation that specialises in support and advice for PMDD.

Whilst there is not a specific organisation for PMDD support in the UK, you may find it useful to visit the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD), which is an American organisation. The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) 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 International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) provides more information about online peer support available for people with PMDD around the world, including links to various online groups you could join if you choose to have a Facebook account.
  • Mind's Side by Side 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:

  • rearrange 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.

If you have a smartphone, you may find it useful to use period tracking apps if you have an unpredictable cycle. There are a range of apps available with a variety of functions, so you can research which one works best for you. 

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 watch them in bed. I save books and magazines to read and have meditation apps. I make sure I have the right foods in the house and meals that need just popping in the microwave.

Create a self-care box

It can be really difficult to come up with ideas to help you feel better when you're feeling low. So you might find it useful to create a self-care box in advance, that you can use whenever you need to.

A self-care box is filled with things that normally cheer you up and help you relax. For example, you could include your favourite book or film, a notebook and pen to write down your thoughts, or some notes of encouragement to yourself.

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 nature and mental health for more information.
  • Try mindfulness. Practising mindfulness could help you manage unwanted thoughts and reduce stress. See our pages on mindfulness for tips.

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 your mental health for more information.

My diet has changed loads. 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.

Reasonable adjustments

If your PMDD affects your ability to work, study or access services, consider asking for reasonable adjustments.

One of the criteria for a PMDD diagnosis is that it has a significant impact on your work, social, education or family life. Some people with PMDD find that it is difficult to work, interact with people, take part in education or complete essential tasks during times when their PMDD symptoms are at their worst.

If you feel your PMDD is impacting your ability to work, take part in education, or get services when you need them, you may be able to ask for reasonable adjustments.

You can see our pages on the Equality Act 2010 and asking for reasonable adjustments for more information on what you may be able to ask for.

This information was published in August 2021. We will revise it in 2024.

References and bibliography available on request.

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