PMDD and Me


This isn’t the first time I have written about my periods, I previously wrote about them here. I am back with another one, and this time I am raising awareness of PMDD. It is something that I have recently been diagnosed with, and it’s relatively unheard of.

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a cyclical, hormone-based mood disorder related to a person’s menstrual cycle. People with PMDD experience severe mood and physical symptoms. They usually start about one to two weeks before the start of their cycle with symptoms subsiding within a few days of starting their period.

What are the symptoms of PMDD?

If you have PMDD, you might find that you experience some of symptoms listed below. But it’s different for different people, so you might also experience other kinds of feelings which aren’t listed here.

Emotional experiences

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset or tearful
  • feeling angry or irritable
  • feelings of anxiety
  • feeling hopeless
  • feelings of tension or being on edge
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • lack of energy
  • less interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • suicidal feelings

Physical and behavioural experiences

  • breast tenderness or swelling
  • pain in your muscles and joints
  • headaches
  • feeling bloated
  • changes in your appetite such as overeating or having specific food cravings
  • sleep problems
  • finding it hard to avoid or resolve conflicts with people around you
  • becoming very upset if you feel that others are rejecting you

You will typically only experience these symptoms for a week or two before your period starts. The symptoms follow your menstrual cycle. So you might find they start to get better when you get your period and will usually have disappeared by the time your period is finished.

sad looking female with glasses, brown and pink hair.

What are the causes?

The exact causes are still not fully understood but some possible factors are:

  • Being very sensitive to changes in hormone levels. Recent research suggests that PMDD is associated with increased sensitivity to the normal hormonal changes that occur during your monthly menstrual cycle.
  • Genetics. Some research suggests that this increased sensitivity to changes in hormone levels may be caused by genetic variations.

My experience and getting a diagnosis

As I have previously said, I’ve always suffered from heavy periods and PMS. Or so I thought. It wasn’t until I started to look closer at how I was feeling 2 weeks of the month that I realised it wasn’t normal. The best way I can describe it is that for 2 weeks of the month I turn into a monster. I snap, shout, cry. It feels like someone has pressed a self destruct button and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I want to sleep all the time and I lose interest in everything. It was also causing problems with my relationship as well. It wasn’t until I started to have thoughts about suicide that I knew I really needed to do something.

However getting a diagnosis can take a while. This page has some great tips if you think you might be suffering from PMDD and need help getting a diagnosis. One of the best things you can do is to track your symptoms and periods for 2/3 months. At first I thought I might just be depressed. I had failed to notice that it was actually only 1/2 weeks a month I felt like I did. The tracking really helped with this. I was able to pinpoint exactly when it would start and finish.

Keep making time for yourself until you are you again.

When I finally saw the doctor and I presented her with what I had been experiencing she talked me through a couple of different options. One being the contraceptive pill however she was hesitant to do this as she said it could worsen my moods. So another option was anti-depressants, which I could either take in the run up to my period or all month. I have decided to take them all month, in the hope that my moods can improve. Having previously taken them, I know that they work. I have to go back to the doctor after a few months to see how I am getting on with them as they can take up to 4-6 weeks to actually start to work.

pmdd close up of denim jacket with enamel pins. pink haired person.

Hopefully once the tablets start working I won’t feel like I have to hide away from the world for 2 weeks of the month. Until that happens I am continuing to take care of myself. Self care is important, and it isn’t all lush bath bombs (although they are a favourite of mine) and surrounding yourself in candles. I’ve been trying to stay off social media, going for more walks. Trying to eat healthier, drink more water. Just easy, simple things which we can all do.

If you, or someone you know, suffers or thinks they might have PMDD then please see a GP. I know the NHS is massively underfunded, especially for mental health but it is important. The Mind website has some great info, including tips for getting a diagnosis. There is also an app, Me vs PMDD which is really good, especially for tracking your symptoms.

I also wrote this post on beating the blues which has a list of things you can do to try and improve your mood. If you suffer from PMDD I would love to hear from you, and how you manage each month. I am obviously still very new to this, so any help and tips would be greatly appreciated.

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