More Than PMS: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments for PMDD
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a serious disorder that affects millions of women everywhere. Yet, many people confuse PMDD with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). So how do we tell the difference between PMDD and PMS? Keep reading for answers.
What is PMDD & How is it Different from PMS?
While PMS and PMDD share some overlapping symptoms, PMDD goes well beyond PMS symptoms and can be debilitating for those who experience it.
Clinically, PMDD is classified in the DSM-5 as a mood disorder in which symptoms occur in a cyclical manner in relation to menstrual cycles.
PMS, on the other hand, is not classified as a mood disorder in the DSM-5, which psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists use to diagnose mental health conditions.
Signs of PMDD
According to the National Library of Medicine, “In the majority of menstrual cycles, at least 5 symptoms must be present in the final week before the onset of menses, start to improve within a few days after the onset of menses, and become minimal or absent in the week postmenses.”
PMDD symptoms include:
- Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness or self-deprecating thoughts
- Anxiety, tension, and/or feelings of being “on edge”
- Decreased interest in usual activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lethargy, fatigue or lack of energy
- Change in appetite including overeating or specific cravings
- Hypersomnia or insomnia
- Feeling overwhelmed or feeling like things are out of control
- Physical symptoms including breast tenderness/swelling; joint or muscle pain; bloating or weight gain
In addition, one or more of the following symptoms must be present for the diagnosis of PMDD:
- Marked affective lability (such as mood swings, a sudden onset of sadness, sudden crying or tearfulness, increased sensitivity to rejection)
- Marked irritability, anger or increased interpersonal conflicts
The severity of PMDD symptoms often cause interference with work, school, usual social activities or interpersonal relationships.
If you’re curious about what people living with PMDD experience, check out this Women’s Health article for personal stories.
Tracking PMDD Symptoms
Tracking PMDD symptoms and the dates when these symptoms occur is an important part of PMDD diagnosis. Some doctors require that symptoms be tracked over two or more menstrual cycles in order to provide a diagnosis. Typically, the onset of PMDD symptoms begin 7-10 days before your period and reside by the end of menstruation.
Menstrual cycle tracking apps are a great way to track both PMS and PMDD symptoms. Many allow you to select symptoms you are experiencing throughout the month, as well as help you track your monthly menstrual cycle so that it’s easier to predict. Here are 11 OB-GYN recommendations to help you track your menstrual cycle.
Online PMDD Support Groups
Fortunately, there are a ton of online communities and educational resources out there to help those struggling with PMDD.
Here are 3 PMDD support groups we recommend:
- This website has both resources for those with PMDD and for medical professionals who treat PMDD. It’s packed with PMDD related blog posts, symptom management advice, peer group resources (including a Facebook support group) and more.
- r/PMDD on Reddit
- This reddit sub is a support community where those with PMDD can come together for support, advice and to share personal experiences. If you need to vent, this is a great place to do so!
- Inspire Premenstrual Disorders Support Group
- This non-social media group welcomes open discussion and questions from the PMDD community.
If one of your loved ones has PMDD, this blog has great information on how to help them with this disorder. Try to learn as much about PMDD as you can, while also taking time for your own self-care.
If you or someone you know are having a mental health emergency, including suicidal thoughts or actions, call 988 for emergency help. The 988 hotline is available nation-wide, 24/7.
While PMDD can feel isolating and strange, remember that you are not alone and support is available.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of PMDD, know that it isn’t “all in your head” and that your experience should be taken seriously by both yourself and medical professionals. A licensed mental health professional, such as a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, can help diagnose PMDD or rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
Therapy, antidepressant medication and lifestyle changes can also help alleviate some of the mental health symptoms caused by PMDD. At Valera Health, we offer affordable, remote therapy and psychiatry services from the comfort of your own home. Click here to schedule a consultation and talk to a Health Connector for free today!