I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD in 1999 and have been trying my best to deal with it ever since then. I really think I had it way before then but was never officially diagnosed. PMDD has really rocked my world and I have had to learn to live with it. It has been quite a journey.
Definition of PMDD
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is defined several ways when I did an Internet search. I looked through many of the definitions and the one that seemed most like the feelings I experience during a PMDD episode is the one defined by the National Institutes of Health. Here is the NIH definition:
“Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition in which a woman has severe depression symptoms, irritability, and tension before menstruation. The symptoms of PMDD are more severe than those seen with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
PMS refers to a wide range of physical or emotional symptoms that typically occur about 5 to 11 days before a woman starts her monthly menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually stop when or shortly after her period begins.”
This definition was the closest I could find but still does not really give a very clear idea of what PMDD actually is. I think when you have PMS, you experience a lot of uncomfortable physical symptoms along with mild to moderate emotional feelings. However, with PMDD, you can experience the same uncomfortable symptoms but the emotional ones are so severe, they can cause someone with PMDD to feel very depressed, helpless and hopeless. Many times, your life seems to completely be coming to an end and when feeling this low, it seems like the feelings will never stop. Even though they stop once your period starts, every month when PMDD rears its ugly head, you forget there is a light at the end of the tunnel. PMDD has a way of removing the logical side of your brain and just makes you feel so down.
Causes of PMDD
According to the Living on a Prayer with PMDD blog, “What causes PMDD is a sudden drop in the neurotransmitter Serotonin following a shift in hormones as a result of the menstrual cycle. The same biochemistry is implicated in PMS, but women with PMDD either are more biologically sensitive to hormonal shifts in general, or the hormonal shifts they experience are bigger.”
Symptoms of PMDD
The symptoms of PMDD seem to vary according to who you ask. One list that I like is by www.pmdd.factsforhealth.org:
- Very depressed mood, feeling hopeless
- Marked anxiety, tension, edginess
- Sudden mood shifts (crying easily, extreme sensitivity)
- Persistent, marked irritability, anger, increased conflicts
- Loss of interest in usual activities (work, school, socializing, etc.)
- Difficulty concentrating and staying focused
- Fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy
- Marked appetite change, overeating, food cravings
- Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or sleeping too much
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
- Physical symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness or swelling, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains
I start really feeling the PMDD symptoms about 5 to 7 days before my period starts. I hate, hate, hate this feeling! I feel grouchy, mean, short-tempered, hateful, unloving and want to jump in a hole until my period starts. When you have PMDD, it is not like normal Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS. PMDD is debilitating. There are times that I feel I cannot function the way I normally do. My life feels out of control during this PMDD time. Everything seems wrong when I have my PMDD episodes – you could literally hand me a million dollars and even that would feel wrong.
Trying to explain this disorder to someone who doesn’t have it is very challenging to me. I used to tell people it was like having PMS times 100. But, after doing more reading and research about PMDD, it is way more than that. It isn’t just that people with PMDD have intensified PMS. It is that our world seems to come to an end during the week before our periods. Nothing seems attainable, everything seems horrible, everyone seems to be out to get you (even though they are not, it just feels that way because of this debilitating disorder).
I have now learned to let my husband and kids, along with close friends and family, know what is going on with me. I tell them when I need to just hide out and read a book in my bedroom. I let them know when I am unable to do something because it just seems too overwhelming. I say no a lot to things that I used to say yes to and then would just feel miserable because I wanted to be in my “cave.”
I used to be embarrassed by having PMDD. But, it is no different than having any other disorder so now I embrace it and love myself through the rough PMDD times. I have learned to accept myself as a unique human being that has been given an opportunity to help others who may also suffer from PMDD.
I have a few good friends who have called upon me when they thought that maybe they, too, have PMDD. They tell me what they are feeling and experiencing and I listen. It has been really healing to help others who have this awful disorder.
Coping with PMDD
A few things that I have found that really help me cope with PMDD are a very healthy diet, supplements, an anti-depressent, exercise, sleep and being able to communicate my needs to others during PMDD time.
Ever since I have stepped up my nutrition by having green smoothies daily, drinking alkaline water and really getting all of the chemicals out of my food and house, I have felt a lot better and have not had as severe PMDD episodes. I have noticed that my anger that usually hits an all time high during this time seems to have leveled out quite a bit from eating well. Anger is a big part of PMDD I think because you already feel so out of control and your hormones are doing such crazy things in your body. Even the littlest thing can set me off into a tailspin during a PMDD episode.
I also find that taking the right supplements help me a great deal to help lessen the symptoms of PMDD. Before taking any supplements, I consult someone in the holistic medical field – whether that be a naturopathic doctor or a health food store employee who is well versed in nutritional supplements. I also read up on different supplements along with read a ton of reviews about how a certain supplement helps or doesn’t help others.
What I find really helps me with keeping my hormones in check that in turn helps with the PMDD are Vitamin D3, Folic Acid, and Magnesium. I am still searching for a hormone-balancing supplement and will be seeing a holistic md in February. I am hoping he will have some ideas/suggestions as to what I can take to further help me with my PMDD.
I take an anti-depressant to help boost the Serotonin levels in my brain since the hormone shift my body/brain experience during PMDD are so severe. The anti-depressent has helped me but I am in search of something more natural and will be talking to the holistic doctor about this in February. I do think the anti-depressant has helped me a great deal but I am not sure of the long-term effects and I have researched that they can be very addicting and hard to get off of. So, we shall see. If the holistic doctor recommends that I stay on it to help with the severe symptoms of PMDD, I will consider it.
Another huge way to help myself with PMDD symptoms is to exercise. I was doing a really great job with exercising regularly last year until my sciatica really flared up. Since then, I have been getting adjusted by a chiropractor on a regular basis and have just started physical therapy to help strengthen my core so the chiropractic adjustments will hold. Once I start feeling stronger and the sciatic pain is relieved a little, my goal is to get back into exercising on a regular basis.
Quality sleep is crucial when you suffer from PMDD. I find that I feel so much better if I get a good night’s sleep especially when experiencing PMDD symptoms. I have had a very hard time sleeping well lately and wonder if it is related to all of the junk I ate over the holidays. I am very curious about light therapy as a way to help me sleep. I found a website explaining the connection between quality sleep and PMDD: https://www.talkaboutsleep.com/sleep-disorders/2006/02/circadian-rhythm-pmdd.htm. I cannot give my opinion about light therapy since I have never tried it but after reading this article, I am very interested.
Great resources about PMDD
Here are some good PMDD blogs I find very helpful:
I was so thankful to find these websites since I used to feel so alone battling PMDD. Now I know I am not the only one who suffers from this awful beast. I know there are ways to help myself, and others, live well with PMDD. I hope you can find some helpful hints in this post along with the above websites to live a better life with PMDD.
Added on 10-6-19 – please check my other article about what has helped me the most with PMDD since I wrote this post years ago.