The Ebb and Flow of Cyclical Sensitivity
What is it PMDD?
PMDD stands for Pre Menstrual Dymorphic Disorder. It is a diagnosable condition but not many people know about it. You may even have it yourself and may have suffered for years but just not known about it. Perhaps you or your GP or healthcare provider mistook your symptoms for that of anxiety or depression and suggested SSRI’s (a type of anti-depressant) which may or may not have been of use to you.
When I discovered PMDD suddenly things started to fall into place for me. For years I have struggled with the cyclical symptoms of low mood and anxiety in the second half of my menstrual cycle. Only in the last 18 months, after lots of researching, trips to my GP and numerous tissues have I discovered a reason for my monthly mood shifts.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of PMDD usually appear after ovulation in the third or fourth phase of your menstural cycle. The cause of the symptoms is due to a dramatic drop in Progesterone, one of the female bodies main sex hormones. Progesterone is known as the calming hormone, it’s the one that makes you feel calm and sleepy and it’s role is to help prepare your body to accept and look after a fertilised egg. However, after ovulation when the egg remains unfertilised, your body recognises that Progesterone is no longer needed and takes a nose dive. See Ya!
For most women, this shift may go un-noticed or be a more gentle shift, but for those with PMDD the change can be staggering and fast and can result in a change from a happy, balanced person to one plagued by anxiety, depression and even thoughts of suicide, practically overnight. Physical symptoms can include prolonged headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and muscle aches.
It’s important to note that PMDD is different from the more common PMS (Pre menstrual syndrome) and other pre-menstrual conditions due to where it shows up in your cycle. The symptoms are much more severe than in typical PMS and where PMS symptoms would typically show in the few days prior to your period, PMDD symptoms often begin right after ovulation, so the middle of your cycle, and last right through until the start of your period and sometimes a few days into menstruation then…just like magic, they disappear, leaving you wondering what on earth just happened.
Diagnosis and Treatment
So, how do you know if you have PMDD? Like any menstrual condition, it has to start with effective cycle tracking . The only way to begin the process of diagnosis is to track your cyclical symptoms for at least 3 months, every day. This is the only way to see patterns building across your cycles. If you visit your GP prior to this tracking, it’s likely that their only advice will be to prescribe either the contraceptive pill or antidepressants. Indeed, once you have tracked your cycle for 3 months and take this evidence to your GP…it’s likely that this will still be the case. This is because, even if your GP recognises this condition (many still don’t) the only current medical treatment is the contraceptive pill or anti depressant/anti anxiety medication, either for all of or part of your cycle. This condition can not be diagnosed via a blood test and neither is it a hormonal imbalance. For some women with severe PMDD this becomes the only option to manage the symptoms…which is completely understandable, no judgement here, however, it is my belief that knowledge is power and just being aware of your cyclical symptoms and what effect they can have on you can make a massive difference to the way you manage the condition.
For me, living with PMDD is a little like living with 2 different people. The first 2 weeks of my cycle can see me feeling confident, happy, energetic, social and motivated. The second 2 weeks can find me feeling depressed, weepy, irrational, withdrawn, aching and lethargic. I would describe it as a heavy black cloak being rested on my shoulders, weighing me down. My eyes sink into the back of my head and the world becomes overwhelming. However, there is light at the end of the PMDD tunnel … since learning of my condition and finding ways to manage it naturally, my symptoms have become less severe and my cycles are generally more balanced. Acknowledging and accepting my symptoms using a mindful mindset, help me to flow through this part of my cycle. I use the knowledge I have of my cyclical symptoms and my tracking tools to manage the condition and to live my best life in harmony with my hormones, rather than fighting against them.
For more information and support with PMDD and menstrual related conditions visit https://iapmd.org/
Remember, your hormones are there to help you not hinder you, you just have to learn to live in harmony with them!