For many women, one of the most telling signs that their period is on its way is their significant mood change. One day, you’re going about life feeling totally cool, calm, and collected, and the next, irritability is at an all-time high as you arm yourself with a slew of choice words for anyone who so much as looks in your general direction. The emotional roller coaster that comes along with PMS feels less like a fun, tummy turning ride you might hop on at your favorite amusement park and more like one you’re forced to ride in some kind of hormonal hell. However, while these swift shifts in emotion can be annoying, once menstruation begins, they typically lessen or pass until it’s time for them to creep out again and warn you that your period is coming in hot.
But what about when PMS seems like a bit more than PMS, and its effect on your emotions is less of an annoyance, and instead is something that’s borderline debilitating? Severe depression, anger, and tension that affect one’s ability to function and take place right before menstruation are all linked to Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
So, wait…what exactly is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?
Seeing two big words followed by the word “disorder” isn’t always comforting, but it’s important to take some time to understand what a certain disorder is (and, of course, to talk to a doctor) before jumping to the conclusion as to whether or not you have it. PMDD feels like the usual sadness, lethargy, anxiety, and anger that one might experience with PMS, but with PMDD, these feelings are much more intense. They can be so extreme that they interfere with work, relationships, productivity, and one’s life in general. However, it’s not as common as you might think—although most women experience some form of PMS, only 3 to 8 percent of women have PMDD.
What causes PMDD?
So far, all that’s known is that PMDD is connected to estrogen and progesterone cycles. While there’s no exact certainty as to what causes it, there are studies that show a link between PMDD and low levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate and influence moods. Many people who have PMDD also have anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder, and other elements that could potentially play a role in developing the disorder are alcohol/substance abuse, lack of exercise, and thyroid disorders.
Can it be treated?
There are a few different options that can work to treat PMDD. Among them are certain antidepressants that focus on slowing down the reuptake of serotonin, such as some SSRIs and SNRIs. And since antidepressants typically lessen PMDD symptoms more efficiently than they lessen depression symptoms, women with the disorder don’t necessarily have to take them regularly in order to get relief. Hormone therapy is also a commonly used to treat PMDD, and certain lifestyle adjustments (such as diet changes, exercising, and supplements) may work as treatments as well, though they’re not a guaranteed fix.
Ultimately, if your mood-related PMS symptoms have become unbearable, check in with your doctor to see if you’re suffering from PMDD and work with them to find a fix that’s right for you.