The jokes about PMS are abundant, some of them really funny, and some of them truer than people would think. While we can sometimes chuckle about PMS, and even wear the t-shirt that warns others about it, there is a more severe form of the syndrome that few people seem to know about. It is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and the symptoms of this form of premenstrual disorder can be debilitating. Women need to be educated about this more severe condition in order to get the help they need.
PMS In Overdrive
Just as PMS happens about a week before menstruation, PMDD arrives in the same time frame and usually disappears shortly after the onset of menses. Severe monthly mood swings that often are unmanageable, and physical symptoms that interfere with day-to-day life, are characteristic of PMDD. A woman's relationships with her family and friends are often affected by angry outbursts, depression, irritability and anxiety, The inability to sleep properly, difficulty concentrating, bloating and breast tenderness are dumped into this toxic mix - it's a recipe for trouble. One in 20 women who have regular monthly periods are affected by PMDD and the criteria used to diagnose it include, depressed mood, irritability, mood swings and anxiety.
Although the physical symptoms replicate PMS exactly, and the emotional symptoms are very similar, PMDD is much more serious. PMS sadness becomes hopelessness and depression in PMDD. Feelings and thoughts of suicide or homicide (which often are reported) are serious and need to be taken seriously. A woman with PMDD is probably not kidding when she talks about these thoughts and feelings. Women who suffer with depression or have a history of depression are at greater risk for PMDD and women who suffer with PMDD are at increased risk for depression after menopause. The comparison between PMS and PMDD can be likened to a stomach ache vs. appendicitis.
The Doctor Doesn't Take Me Seriously
The tragedy is that most women have never discussed this with their doctors because they do not believe they will be taken seriously. So, they've been trying to cope with this condition on their own, and suffering as a result. Since PMDD has recently been listed as a psychiatric diagnosis there has been more of a thrust to educate women and make them aware that it is a valid condition and there is treatment for it. Most women surveyed in connection with symptoms of PMDD and the effect it has on day-to-day life, said they suffer impaired social functioning and intense mood swings. Two out of three women said that there was a lot of interference in their daily lives.
Some Things A Woman Can Do For Herself
By keeping track of the symptoms for a couple of months, including their severity and when they started relative to menses, a woman can see her doctor and discuss the impact of PMDD and possible treatment. Working together with the doctor, a woman can help develop a treatment plan that works for her. Some basic things a woman with PMDD or PMS can do to help herself are listed here. Smoking exacerbates the condition, so quitting is necessary. Stress management techniques are good to practice as a means of managing stress that could trigger other reactions. Regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet, and supplementation with a good multi-vitamin and extra calcium are recommended. Symptoms are reduced when alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and salt intakes are lowered.
Doctors still are not sure what causes PMS or PMDD. Consequently, there is no proven way to prevent its occurrence, but the symptoms can be alleviated by healthy lifestyle changes or by changing medications to lessen reactions.