Premenstrual syndrome is the worst, isn’t it?
Your hormones are working overtime with the specific mission of messing you up, and your mood is all over the place. You’re bloated, you’re craving sugar, you’re easily offended and you spend hours in tears wishing you’d never been born. You spend most of your time trying to think of the most effective way to kill yourself, or how you could die in a convenient, blameless accident. Your mind is totally black, and your insides are hollow.
OK, that’s not true for everyone, but statistics suggest that one in 20 women feel so bad when their bodies are premenstrual that their thoughts are less about snacks and more about suicide.
If you’re feeling like your PMS is more severe than it should be, it might not be ‘just you being dramatic’ – you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD is a lot more severe than PMS, and is often defined as an endocrine (hormonal) disorder rather than a mental disorder. It’s thought to be more prevalent in women who have pre-existing mental health struggles, such as severe depression or anxiety.
‘It’s important to differentiate between PMS and PMDD,’ says psychotherapist Helena Lewis. ‘PMDD is a recognised medical condition. No one knows what causes it, but changes in hormones are often to blame, and sometimes genetics play a part.
‘PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, and carries more severe symptoms, which usually occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle.
‘These symptoms include severe fatigue, mood changes, anxiety, depression, crying and emotional sensitivity, lack of focus, paranoia, memory loss, headaches, fainting and insomnia.’
Kerry used to suffer horribly from PMDD until she found a solution to manage the hormonal attacks.
‘I would have a week of feeling suicidal, anxious, depressed and generally crazy,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘Then when the hormones had subsided I’d feel guilty for how I behaved. The cramps were total agony, I felt nauseous and would vomit, and just generally feel miserable.’
Lou Pemberton also suffered similarly – PMDD is far more desperate than PMS.
Lou said: ‘I felt trapped in a brain that made me feel like I should die. I constantly felt like something awful was about to happen. It was exhausting, terrifying and relentless. I also got flu-like symptoms, headaches and lethargy. For me the depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation are the worst symptoms.’
Both Kerry and Lou tried a lot of different treatments to try to stem the horror before they found an option that worked, and their solutions were both radically different (of course, we all have different hormonal balances and reactions, so everyone will have different reactions to treatment).
‘I have the mirena coil and so far I’ve had no periods on it! No periods = no PMDD,’ says Kerry. ‘I was nervous before trying it, as all other hormonal medication I had tried made me feel worse – but so far I’m really pleased with how the mirena is working.’
For Lou, her solution was a lot more invasive after she was found to be treatment-resistant. She says: ‘I am four months post-surgery from a total hysterectomy with bilateral oophorectomy (removal of my uterus and both ovaries). This was a very last resort treatment.’
Lou found solace and support with fellow PMDD sufferers in online communities and says that ‘social media has been a lifeline’ for her: ‘There is a wonderful, supportive PMDD community out there.’
Lou suggests anybody who’s concerned about PMDD to visit IAPMD. If you’re suffering from PMDD symptoms, such as:
- Feeling suicidal
- Feeling hopeless
- Having problems with your sleep
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Pain in your muscles and joints
…don’t leave it any longer before you visit a health professional. There’s a great, supportive community online at Vicious Cycle, and women with PMDD are sharing their tips and suggestions on Twitter. Mind has more information about the symptoms and causes.
Yes, this absolutely sucks, but there are solutions and you’re not alone.
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