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WHAT IS PMDD?

what is PMDD
what is PMDD

“Every month for roughly 2 weeks before my period I noticed feeling irrational, irritable, angry, emotional highs and lows and quite frankly, at times, suicidal” 

For years I struggled with my mental health each month for at least a week, in some cases longer, to the point where I wasn’t able to function properly day to day. I began to wonder if something was “wrong” with me, Did I have bipolar disorder? Did I have another personality disorder?

On one hand I could be the most patient, kind and gentle person and I had so much energy, I could go to work, take care of the kids and the house but on the other hand I felt like a monster and that hit me hard.

I started tracking my monthly outbursts of anger and emotion to see if there was a pattern to it, if anything in particular happened. I tracked my sleep and my work schedule to see if anything tied in to make sense of why I was feeling like this, and then it hit me – my period!

Every month for the 2 weeks before my period I was noticing the same fluctuation of feelings.

My mood would switch between being calm and happy, to crying at the smallest things, or getting really angry over something trivial. I would be very tired and fatigued which meant I would need to nap daily, otherwise I wouldn’t make it through the day. I noticed an increase in my food intake, a craving for sugary foods and carbs. I also became very forgetful and felt this fogginess in my mind, much to the annoyance of my partner. Eventually the feelings got more intense and I noticed that I was often feeling suicidal, I wouldn’t act on the feelings but the thoughts of “what’s the point in being here?” and “everything feels too much” kept creeping into my mind and I knew something had to change.

I did lots of research online and found some information on PMDD which basically changed my life.

Understanding myself and being aware of why I was feeling like this was a game changer for me because it made me realise that what I was feeling wasn’t “because I was a failure” or “because I am a bad person” or even because I had a mental illness like a personality disorder. It was because I was suffering with PMDD.

I went to see my doctor and explained all of the research and cycle tracking I had done over the months. The doctor confirmed that I had PMDD and offered some suggestions of medications that might help such as Anti-depressants or the Contraceptive pill, However the doctor was also honest about the fact that equally, I might not find anything that helps.

 

So, what is PMDD? 

The Symptoms of PMDD

Advice and Tips for Managing PMDD

Pre-Mentrual Dysphoric Disorder (also known as) PMDD is an extreme form of PMS. 

Most of us will have heard of the term PMS which relates to the hormonal changes for a woman during her period. However, with PMDD those changes can be intensified, and they usually start in the 2 weeks prior to the period and dissipate once the period starts.

If you notice drastic changes and dips in your mood and well-being around the time of your period, I would highly recommend keeping a record of your moods and periods to see if there is any correlation between the two.

What are the symptoms of PMDD?

If you have PMDD you might find that your hormones are up and down, one minute you feel ok and the next you might feel short fused, snap at others or feel like at any minute you might explode. 

You might feel guilty after because you know that what caused your reaction wasn’t a big deal, and sometimes that can be when the shame and embarrassment kicks in. 

You might feel low in mood, depressed even, and struggle to get out of the slump on a daily basis. 

You might feel tired, fatigued, and sleep more than normal or find that you’re struggling to sleep although you’re really tired. 

You might feel overwhelmed with stress, anxious about the things that you “should” be doing, but at the same time feel unable to do anything. 

You might notice feelings of self harm or suicidal thoughts.

THE SYMPTOMS OF PMDD

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Anger or irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in normal activities
  • Food cravings
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

 

The "Science bits"

Leading up and during menstruation, hormone changes can cause a serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is a substance found naturally in the brain and intestines that narrows blood vessels and can affect mood and cause physical symptoms. 

During this period of time, women’s symptoms can be anything from irritability and anxiety to chronic depression and abdominal cramps. As we are all unique individuals, our symptoms can differ and affect us differently. 

Advice and Tips for Managing PMDD

My number one tip for managing PMDD would be forward planning.

Forward planning can help to make your menstrual cycle a little more bearable so you feel more in control and better able to manage stress levels and day to day life.

My top 10 tips and ideas for managing PMDD, which I personally find useful are;                           

  1. Tracking your cycle, either in your journal or on a cycle tracker app on your phone. (Most phones come with a health section that has a cycle tracker built in.)
  2. Trying not to plan too many social gatherings or events around this time to reduce feeling overwhelmed.
  3. Taking Vitamin supplements such as B6, Magnesium, Calcium.
  4. Gentle exercise such as yoga or Pilates.
  5. Cutting out/down on caffeine, sugar and alcohol, especially when menstruating.
  6. If you’re able to, take time off work, work from home or do lighter duties, especially when you’re on your heaviest.
  7. Communicating with your loved ones, especially those you live with, what your needs are and explaining that you might not “be yourself” over the next week or so.
  8. Taking time to slow down, do mindfulness activities such as, meditation, drawing or crafting.
  9. Giving yourself permission to retreat, sleep and attend to your needs like you would if you were sick.
  10. Get comfortable telling people that you’re taking some time out to rejuvenate and recharge.

We unfortunately live in a society that still feels squeamish talking about all things menstruation, but how we end the stigma and get people feeling more at ease and familiar about something is, we talk about it! So talk about it! Share your experiences, how you’re feeling and what you need with those you trust and know will support you when you need it.

Another great way to manage your feelings during this time is by learning to recognise your own needs. Journalling is a great way to do this. See if you can notice any patterns throughout the month. And above all else, be gentle with yourself!

If you notice that PMDD is having an impact on your quality of life, work and relationships and want to speak to somebody – counselling can help you to talk about the impact its having on you and reframe the thoughts, feelings and behaviours to help you manage better going forward.

* If you’re worried and/or have extreme symptoms, please seek medical help from your Doctor.*

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