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Decoding And Debunking The Myths Of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

✍🏻 Avni Patel | BSc Neuroscience graduate from the University of Leeds


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health please visit the Mind website.


What is PMDD? 👩🏼

PMDD stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

It is considered a form of depression and affects up to 5% of women who are pre-menopausal.

Despite this, it is widely underdiagnosed and many women can find it difficult to get a PMDD diagnosis.


What is the cause of PMDD? 🧬

The exact cause of PMDD is currently unknown.

It is thought that normal monthly changes in the female sex hormones may act as a trigger for the disorder.

Some women may be more susceptible than others, due to risk factors such as:

  • Genetic risk factors (a family history of PMDD or other mood disorders)

  • Stress

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Obesity

  • Alcohol or substance abuse.

Scientists also believe that serotonin (a chemical important in regulating mood) is thought to be dysregulated to a degree in those with PMDD.


What are the symptoms of PMDD? 🧠

Symptoms of PMDD will appear during the weeks before menstruation and disappear after your period starts.

Symptoms may affect daily functioning and relationships, which may include:

  • Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness

  • Thoughts of suicide

  • Strong feelings of anxiety or tension

  • Persistent anger or irritability or increased conflicts with family/friends

  • Decreased interest in usual activities (work, school, friends, hobbies)

  • Hypersomnia (oversleeping) or insomnia (inability to sleep)

  • Physical symptoms (breast tenderness, headaches, joint pain, bloating, period cramps).


Why is PMDD commonly underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed? 🩺

PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), something that most women experience in the days leading up to their menstrual period.

This is why PMDD can be commonly misdiagnosed for the better-known PMS. Although the symptoms are similar, those of PMDD are notably more severe and will affect her daily life.

Another reason may be that PMDD is not widely understood or researched among those in healthcare. Until 1987 a formal path for diagnosing those with PMDD was not created. This can be very frustrating.

For tips on what you can do if you are struggling with getting a diagnosis, talk to your healthcare provider and visit Mind.


What are some common misconceptions about PMDD? 💭

The severity of PMDD is often overlooked and diminished.

It is not as common as PMS, but its symptoms can be debilitating. PMDD symptoms can be so debilitating that a staggering 34% of those diagnosed with PMDD have attempted suicide. This figure may not be accurate given that many women may not be diagnosed with PMDD or are misdiagnosed with another psychiatric disorder. If you are going through PMDD, know you are not alone and you can call Samaritans at any time.

PMDD is a form of depression, however, there is no clear link between PMDD and major depression (the most common type of depression). Despite this, they do share common risk factors, as with many other psychiatric disorders.

Here is a short video from Mind of Laura’s story on living with PMDD:


How is PMDD managed? 🏃🏽‍♂️

There are a number of methods to manage PMDD.

Things that may help to manage your PMDD:

  • Join a support organisation (on Facebook, IAPMD).

  • Keep track of your symptoms using a tracker for at least three cycles.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet with increased water intake.

  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

  • Try to reduce stress with yoga, meditation or mindfulness.

  • Reduce cigarette smoking and alcohol intake.


How is PMDD treated? 💊

There are a range of treatments available for PMDD.

Following diagnosis from a healthcare professional, the following PMDD treatments may be available:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (a widely used antidepressant medication to help with depressed mood)

  • Oral contraceptive pill (commonly known as the ‘pill’, which may reduce symptoms by controlling or stopping menstruation)

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (also known as CBT, a talking therapy with a therapist)

  • Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen, which may help reduce physical symptoms)

In very severe cases, where no other options have worked the doctor may suggest:

  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone injections (cause temporary menopause to help symptoms)

  • Hysterectomy (complete surgical removal of the womb to remove symptoms)

Isobel Thompson, Content Writer at Write in the Loop

Written by: Avni Patel (Content Writer)

Grace Pountney, Founder and Director at Write in the Loop

Edited by: Grace Pountney (Founder and Director)


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