Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Let’s be clear from the outset, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is different to PMS. Yes, symptoms appear similar to mood disturbances associated with PMS, however PMDD is a severe mood disorder, classified as such under DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s classification system of mental disorders. Point being, this is not something to take lightly. In fact, PMDD symptoms are so severe that they interfere with our daily lives and cause major distress at work, school, social activities, and in relationships.
So how widespread are we talking here? Well, PMDD affects approximately 3-8% of women and consists of a combination of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms that reoccur monthly during the menstrual cycle. Let’s take a deep dive into these symptoms and the medical community’s current understanding surrounding this debilitating disorder.
What are PMDD symptoms?
Women who have PMDD may feel several or all of the following cognitive and behavioral disturbances throughout most of their cycles. In the majority of cases, symptoms are most severe 3 – 4 days prior to the onset of bleeding, lasting up until 3 days after menstruation.
- Mood swings
- Sensitivity to rejection
- Irritability or anger
- Marked depressed moods
- Hopelessness, or self-deprecating thoughts
- Anxiety, tension or feeling on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
These above cognitive symptoms can be accompanied by behavioral symptoms including:
- Lack of energy
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Breast swelling or bloating
Given these symptoms, it’s not surprising that PMDD can easily get confused with other health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorder or thyroid condition. It is the timing of onset that indicates it could be related to our menstrual cycle. That’s why it’s important to you talk to your GP for the right diagnosis and keep track of your symptoms in a diary or another reporting tool. I mean, we all love Clue right!?
What Causes PMDD?
Unfortunately the underlying cause of PMDD is still under investigation. Sigh. But the docs are onto something. Potential biological causes include central nervous system (CNS) sensitivity (think brain/ spinal cord); reproductive hormonal imbalances, genetic factors, and psychosocial factors such as stress.
Hormonal fluctuations are considered key to assessing the cause of PMDD due to its cyclical nature of onset. Recent research suggests that women with PMDD have altered sensitivity to normal hormonal fluctuations, particularly estrogen and progesterone.
Essentially, we’re talking underlying causes at the biological, cell level ladies. This isn’t something to take lightly and means it’s probably something we can solve or at least manage with a bit of help.
Natural PMDD Treatment
PMDD is a severe and chronic condition that requires attention and treatment. Medical therapies such as hormone therapy or antidepressants may help ease the symptoms but may not be suitable for everyone, not to mention the plethora of side affects associated. Many women find success with simple lifestyle changes. This may include anything from changes in your diet and regular exercise to relaxation therapy, meditation, yoga and reflexology.
Eat Healthy Food
Try sticking to a healthy diet with lots of wholegrain foods, vegetables and fruits. Also try to stay away from processed and fast food if possible. Reduce your coffee intake or substitute caffeine with decaffeinated products. If you are a coffee-lover and cannot give up on your coffee, at least try to stay away from it in the week prior to your period.
Several recent studies show Chaste Tree Berry (vitex agnus castus) as a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of PMDD and PMS symptoms, with no side effects. This is likely due to its hormone balancing properties. Take a look at our Hormone Balancing Elixir, made from organic Chaste Tree Berry.
Research shows that physical exercise has a positive effect on PMDD and PMS. If you don’t feel up to high intensity aerobic workouts, try going for a walk, swim or ride a bike most days, including during menstruation. Even moderate aerobic exercise may help ease your PMDD symptoms.
Relaxation and meditation
Studies have also shown positive effects of relaxation therapy and meditation on our mind and body. Practicing meditation, especially mindfulness meditation can ease symptoms related to PMDD.
Meditation puts PMDD into perspective – you acknowledge that your PMDD is a short-term problem and that you otherwise feel good. Furthermore, mindfulness meditation helps calm emotional fluctuations by putting your mind and body into a relaxed state.
Tracking your PMDD Symptoms:
As mentioned above, track your symptoms. Even when consulting a doctor, having a diary available with clearly tracked symptoms and associated timing of onset is critical for an accurate diagnosis.