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What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, often known simply as PMDD, is an extreme form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the collection of physical and emotional symptoms which affects many women in the days before menstruation begins. While premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which affects as many as 5 percent of all menstruating women, involves many of the same symptoms as PMS, these symptoms are so intense that they can cause a significant disruption to the sufferer’s life. Although medical researchers do not yet fully understand what causes this condition, several treatment options have been established.

Like PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder usually sets in three to six days before menstruation begins. In most cases, the condition gradually fades once menstruation has started. While the symptoms of PMDD are similar or even identical to those of PMS, in the case of premenstrual dysphoric disorder, these symptoms become so severe that they significantly disrupt the sufferer’s life.

Ongoing depression can be a sign of PMDD.
Ongoing depression can be a sign of PMDD.

Some of the common symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder are physical in nature. For instance, many sufferers experience severe abdominal cramping, breast tenderness, fluid retention, headaches, and nausea. Extreme fatigue is another common symptom of the disorder.

For many premenstrual dysphoric disorder sufferers, the most unpleasant symptoms of the condition are emotional rather than physical. Many sufferers report feeling severely depressed, and some even find themselves contemplating suicide. Also common are crying spells, feelings of hopelessness, seemingly uncontrollable mood swings, feelings of panic or anxiety, and unprovoked outbursts of anger. During a flare-up of the condition, certain sufferers may feel compelled to binge on food or use drugs or alcohol.

A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for PMDD if necessary.
A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for PMDD if necessary.

Medical researchers do not yet fully understand what causes premenstrual dysphoric disorder. As the condition often affects those with mental health issues such as depression, however, some researchers theorize that the hormonal changes which occur in the lead-up to menstruation may intensify these issues. Others believe that heredity, caffeine consumption, or a lack of physical activity may cause or intensify the condition.

Crying spells and feelings of hopelessness are symptoms of PMDD.
Crying spells and feelings of hopelessness are symptoms of PMDD.

While no cure exists for this condition, there are several different treatment options which may reduce symptoms to bearable levels. It should be noted that a treatment which works for one sufferer may not work for another, and that finding the best treatment is often a process of elimination. Some sufferers may find that antidepressants, painkillers, or hormone-regulating oral contraceptives can ease the condition’s symptoms. Others may be able to reduce symptoms by increasing their physical activity levels, altering their diets, or taking nutritional supplements.

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    • Ongoing depression can be a sign of PMDD.
      By: Artem Furman
      Ongoing depression can be a sign of PMDD.
    • A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for PMDD if necessary.
      By: Alexander Raths
      A doctor can prescribe medication and deliver psychological therapy for PMDD if necessary.
    • Crying spells and feelings of hopelessness are symptoms of PMDD.
      By: kmiragaya
      Crying spells and feelings of hopelessness are symptoms of PMDD.
    • Uncontrollable mood swings and feelings of panic are symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
      By: blanche
      Uncontrollable mood swings and feelings of panic are symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder.