Are you on your period or something? When PMS is too much PMS: An introduction to PMDD.

by Ellie Confrey
PMDD

Us ladies have all experienced a little PMS, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t, (and perhaps a little jealous). Most of us can expect hormone levels to swing, but when is PMS, too much PMS?

For a number of months, my extreme mood swings and heightened anxiety and depression were making me start to question something. I began to think that these changes were somehow linked to my cycle. Two weeks or so before my period, I would turn into a raging, manic, highly anxious woman – a shell of my former self. So, like everyone these days, I turned to my trusty friend, Google.

I began a little research and came across PMDD. PMDD stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder and essentially, is a severe form of PMS. Symptoms normally begin a week or two before your period and it can make it difficult to work, socialise and put a strain on your relationships. Fierce mood swings followed by feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, as well as a lack of energy can infiltrate you and suicidal thoughts are common.

When I stumbled across it, I immediately thought ‘why have I never heard about this before’ and ‘why isn’t it talked about’? In the last couple of years, a shift in society’s perception of mental health has started, as we begin the process of building more of an understanding world, where mental health is no longer a stigma. Change is certainly happening, however, my discovery of PMDD convinced me that we still have a long way to go.

The best way I can describe my experience of PMDD is that a dark fog descends upon me and the future is non-existent. I become an Olympic sleeper, sometimes not getting out of bed all day as a heavy fatigue swamps my body and mind. My anxiety also gets to an all-time high and I begin to overthink everything I have ever done and self-doubt paralyses me.

Frequently, PMDD is often misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder or depression due to its cyclical nature, or women are told that they’re hormonal and they just need to get over themselves.

This lack of understanding and misdiagnosis is perhaps one of the reasons it’s not talked about because we’re not aware of it. Sure, only a small number of 5-8% of women experience PMDD, but that’s not more of a reason to not discuss it. Who knows how many women are out there that have been misdiagnosed or simply don’t know it exists.

Fortunately for me, I had an incredibly understanding GP, who listened to my own research and my symptoms that I had been tracking for a while. Others are not so lucky.

If this seems familiar to you, or you find yourself Googling “ Why am extremely depressed before my period” or “severe PMS symptoms”, I suggest you head to talk with your GP.

Conversations around PMDD and PMS need to be more commonplace. Personally, I feel that much of the talk around these issues is normally done in a humorous way. PMS memes flood the internet, mocking symptoms, sometimes placing a man as the poor victim of his PMSing girlfriend. Sure, I’ll admit that some of these memes I look at and think, ‘omg that is SO me and I can totally relate’. However, it’s representations like these that are partly the reason why these hormonal changes aren’t being taken seriously because society is constantly laughing about them.

If we start to have dialogue around periods and mental health, PMDD will have more awareness and women will know what to look out for. So the next time you have a change in mood and someone mockingly asks if it’s because you’re on your period, open the conversation and talk about these changes and how you’re feeling. Let’s create a more empathetic world where a women’s cycle and hormone changes are less mocked and more understood.

Resources:

  1. Mind PDF about PMDD: https://www.mind.org.uk/media/13577551/understanding-pmdd-2017.pdf
  2. PMS and PMDD – Mental Health Videos with Kati Morton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZggH9Sm76g

 

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