PMS is pretty much known to be the worst. There’s the mood swings, the cramps, the cravings…now double all of that, and you’ve basically got PMDD. PMDD stands for “premenstrual dysphoric disorder,” and is often conflated with regular PMS. However, PMDD is actually a lot more debilitating and tends to be much less talked about than PMS.
According to WebMD, between 2-10% of people who menstruate suffer from PMDD. There’s a pretty large gap between those percentages, but even if the number of people who suffer from PMDD is as low as 2%, that’s still quite a large chunk of people. Despite this, there still has not been many studies done on the disorder; many doctors are completely uninformed on PMDD, and simply brush it off as PMS. From the little knowledge we have on PMDD, WebMD states that PMDD is connected to “the hormonal changes” that arise near a person’s period and is also linked with a drop in serotonin levels.
What makes PMDD different from normal PMS is the severity of the symptoms. For example, a person with PMS may experience the occasional mood swing and moderate cramps before their period. A person with PMDD, however, tends to experience much more intense mood swings, feelings of depression, anxiety, tension, irrationality, and severe cramps and muscle pain. PMDD can also cause a lack of focus and hope, heavy fatigue, and typical depressive symptoms such as disinterest in activities, trouble sleeping, and changes in appetite.
Another key symptom of PMDD, again from WebMD, is the feeling of being “out of control,” or completely overwhelmed. This can make PMDD especially difficult, since not only do you feel depressed, anxious, and in physical pain, you’re also more likely to feel totally overwhelmed by both the symptoms and everything else around you.
Luckily, there are treatment options for PMDD, even if they’re not the most researched. Your doctor can prescribe antidepressants that boost serotonin levels, or, if you already take those, some doctors will prescribe extra to up your intake the week before your period, which is usually when PMDD starts. Birth control can also be prescribed to help regulate hormones. Natural alternatives include regular exercise and sticking to a healthy, balanced diet, supplemented by vitamins like E and B6. Cutting out caffeine is also suggested, which can increase anxiety, as well as “salt, refined sugar, and alcohol.”
If you struggle with PMDD and the above methods aren’t helping, you may also want to look into therapy. This can help diagnose any underlying issues that could be worsening PMDD’s emotional symptoms, and will give you a safe space to discuss the issues you’ve been facing. Because hormones cause PMDD, it can make you feel like you have no control over how your body reacts. This is incredibly frustrating; nobody likes not having control over their emotional and physical responses, even if that loss of control is only temporary.
As more people learn about PMDD, hopefully more research will go into what causes the disorder, and more treatment options will be made available.
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