By Megan Rigdon
Clinical Social Worker
I recently posted on Instagram asking my therapy community about some ideas for a blog post. I got a request for a post about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD. Later that week, I spoke with several individuals who told me they were diagnosed with PMDD. Naturally, I began digging to find all the information I could about PMDD. It was new to the DSM 5 when I was in graduate school and we did not spend a lot of time learning about it. In light of my research and work with these individuals, I truly believe everyone should be educated about this disorder to be able to support those living with it.
So what in the world is PMDD you ask? Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a cyclical, hormone-based mood disorder. It is not an imbalance of hormones, it is an extreme negative response to the increase and decrease of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It occurs during the luteal phase, or after ovulation, until menstrual flow. In the mental health world, it is classified as a mood disorder, and often people are misdiagnosed with bipolar, generalized anxiety, and major depressive disorder, because some of the symptoms of the more researched mood disorders are the same as PMDD symptoms.
Because PMDD is a negative response to the rise and fall of hormones during an individual’s menstrual cycle, then this means it happens every month. One woman reported, “It is a life sentence. Until menopause anyways.” Many people report it is like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation, two weeks of feeling like yourself, and then two weeks of terror and misery. Some of the symptoms of PMDD are: panic attacks, mood swings, depression, thoughts of suicide, intense food cravings and binge eating, irritability and extreme rage, tiredness, feeling out of control, and many more.
So if you don’t have PMDD, then why should you care? Here are some of the statistics. 1 in 20 women, transgender, and non-binary individuals live with PMDD, and of those individuals, 90% go undiagnosed. And here is the part you should pay attention to: 30% of people with PMDD will attempt suicide in their life. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States according to the CDC. I had a mom share her experience of PMDD with me and she said, “When I am finally out of the bad days and I am me again, my kids will say, Mommy you are back! I just don’t know how to explain to my children that every two weeks mommy can’t get out of bed, mommy can’t get you breakfast, and mommy can’t get you dressed.”
By educating ourselves about PMDD we can be a support to those around us. By talking about mental health and banishing the negative stigma of mental health, we can allow those living with difficult things, like PMDD, to not feel shame. PMDD is not a choice, it is not “bad PMS”, and it is not something that just goes away. There are mountains of research showing that peer support is one of the most beneficial tools in recovery, so I encourage you to get educated and support those who need it.
All of my information came from the website iapmd.org. It is the international hub for all information on PMDD. It has a self-screening link, how to talk to your kids, treatments, online support groups, and so much more good information.