Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: an examination of psychological symptoms

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: an examination of psychological symptoms

Summary: Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a serious mood disorder that affects one in twenty women. PMDD can have a debilitating effect on sufferers’ lives. Researchers are researching PMDD and evaluating treatment options for sufferers.

Source: Conversation

Singer and social media star Dixie D’Amelio recently revealed on Instagram that she has been diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). In her post, she shared how the condition left her feeling like she “didn’t want to be here anymore” and that she had never felt “so low”.

But although PMDD affects one in 20 women, very few people know about it. This means that many – just like D’Amelio – may suffer for years without knowing why they feel the way they do and may not get the help they need. On average, it takes 12 years before people get a proper diagnosis.

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe mood disorderwhere people experience distressing and frightening psychological symptoms a week or two before their period.

PMDD is not the same as PMS. They vary significantly in weight. Up to 80% of women experience it Symptoms of PMS, which can cause both emotional and physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, crying or irritability. PMS symptoms are usually manageable and do not seriously affect daily life.

In contrast, PMDD has a debilitating influence on everyday life, and can even affect relationships, education and employment. Although many of the physical symptoms are the same as PMS, people with PMDD will experience far more severe psychological symptoms. These include mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and difficulty concentrating.

Some people will first experience PMDD around the time they start menstruating. But others may develop the condition later, for example after or after pregnancy stop breastfeeding their child.

Although the causes of PMDD are not fully understood, ongoing research is investigating several possible mechanisms. These include genetic factors, long-term exposure to the hormone progesterone and one of the chemicals it breaks down into (allopregnanolone), an improper relationship between the hormones estrogen and serotonin, differences in brain structure, and even past trauma.

How is it treated?

Most people with PMDD experience thoughts of self-harm and suicide. One in three people with PMDD will try to end their life. This is why it is so important to raise awareness of the condition, so more people can get the help they need.

If you suspect you have PMDD, it’s important to see your GP to get a diagnosis. But before you do, you’ll want to track your menstrual cycle for at least two months. This is essential, as you will be able to show your doctor the monthly patterns of your mood and how it affects different aspects of your life. They are many applications you can use to help you with this, or you can record it in a journal.

It’s PMDD typically managed in several different ways. The treatment plan you receive may not be the same as the next person.

Many people will be given antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These can work within a few hours to improve symptoms in people with PMDD. Although SSRIs can be taken daily, they can only be taken when symptoms recur every month.

This shows a sad woman sitting on the beach
PMDD is not the same as PMS. Image is in the public domain

Another common treatment is to prescribe hormonal contraceptives that prevent ovulation, such as the pill. This helps prevent sudden changes in hormone levels that trigger PMDD episodes.

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People who do not respond to SSRIs or oral contraceptives may be given alternative treatments, such as GnRH analogues, which puts women into a temporary artificial chemical menopause. The treatment of last resort for women who have had no success with other treatment options is oophrectomywhich surgically removes the ovaries.

What can you do?

It can be scary to find out that you may have PMDD. But, luckily, there is support. The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders, for example, has many excellent resources not only for you, but also for your loved ones and healthcare professionals. They provide information about PMDD and how you can manage it.

Peer support it can also be a lifesaver. Knowing that you have people to talk to about your experiences or who are going through the same thing can be empowering and give you hope. Even if you don’t have friends going through something similar, there are moderated support forums, video support groups and social media platforms where you can find an online community other people living with PMDD.

PMDD is only recognized as a medical condition in 2013, which is quite recent in medical terms. This means that there is still much work to be done in terms of improving the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. This is something my own research aims to do.

Increasing awareness of PMDD is crucial in helping people access the right support, but also in educating healthcare professionals about symptoms and management options. But thanks to people like D’Amelia, PMDD is finally being talked about—which will hopefully lead to more people finally getting the help they need.

funding: Lynsay Matthews receives funding from Research England and the Economic and Social Research Council to undertake research into PMDD. Lynsay is involved with the Scottish Government as a member of their Cross Party Group on Women’s Health.

About this mood disorder and news about PMDD research

Author: Lynsay Matthews
Source: Conversation
Contact: Lynsay Matthews – The Conversation
picture: Image is in the public domain

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