Everything You Need To Know About PMDD

PMDD is like PMS times ten. Here's everything you need to know about this disorder. | Illustration by Sarah Wintner

PMDD is like PMS times ten. Here’s everything you need to know about this disorder. | Illustration by Sarah Wintner

You know when you’re about to get your period and you feel like you’re about to hulk out? Your mood is swinging in all directions, you’re ridiculously irritable and your body feels like it is falling apart. Okay, so imagine that times ten. The mood swings are more intense, the irritability seriously affects your relationships and your body is ready to collapse. If this sounds familiar in your life then you might have PMDD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Do these symptoms sound like your life to a tee? Want to learn more? Check out everything you need to know about PMDD.

What exactly is PMDD? What happens when you have it? Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe type of PMS which doubles as a depressive disorder. Symptoms can include typical PMS symptoms like breast tenderness, fatigue and the desire to eat everything in your path, but PMDD makes at least one of the following symptoms stand out like a sore thumb:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Severe moodiness
  • Anger and irritation
  • Sadness and despair
  • Intense muscle pain
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities

If you experience these symptoms in a very pronounced  way up to ten days before your period starts, PMDD might be the culprit.


Couldn’t anyone with a bad case of PMS claim that they have PMDD?

In theory, sure, PMS can be mistaken for PMDD. But remember that PMDD symptoms don’t just cause a bit of discomfort or general annoyance like PMS ones do. PMDD level irritation might affect your relationships on a regular basis. Intense anxiety might make your everyday tasks–homework, studying, etc–borderline impossible. You might find yourself bursting into tears from something that would normally just be a tiny bit of a bummer. You’ll know that something is off if your PMS symptoms are coupled with something a little more vicious than boobs that hurt for a couple of days.

So what is it that causes PMDD in the first place?

That’s unknown, which sucks, but there are a few things that trigger it. Already having depression or anxiety increases one’s chance of suffering from PMDD; depression and anxiety symptoms simply worsen before one’s period. For folks who don’t have depression and anxiety already, PMDD is simply triggered by hormones going out of control.

Additionally, recent studies have shown that those with PMDD have lower levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that some brain cells rely upon to control things like mood, pain, fatigue, etc. This leads to, you guessed it, awful PMDD symptoms. So all in all, there is no one exact way that people have PMDD, but we know what can trigger its nastiest symptoms.

I think I might have PMDD. How will I know for sure?

crying blood

If these symptoms are hitting a little too close to home, set up an appointment with a doctor for an official diagnosis. Your doctor will make sure that there aren’t any other issues going on that are sparking PMDD-esque symptoms–like hormonal or gynecological disorders such as PCOS–before a PMDD diagnosis is given. It’s important to note that you have to experience at least four PMDD symptoms up to seven days before your period and go away within a few days of the beginning of your period. If you seem to have PMDD symptoms all the time, you’ll want to figure out what else is going on with your body.


How can it be treated? It’s not like I can pop some pain killers and be done with it!

princess and the frog tiana tired You’re right, that won’t really do the trick. There are a few different ways that PMDD sufferers help take control of their lives just before that time of the month:

Antidepressants: Remember when I said that the serotonin levels in folks with PMDD is a little funky? Well, antidepressants help get them back in order. They can either be taken everyday or only between ovulation (when most symptoms crop up) and your period.

Birth control: Preventing ovulation can help balance your hormones and shake off PMDD symptoms.

Therapy: Talk it out, it can’t hurt.

Exercise and lifestyle changes: Exercises might not be a cure-all to depressive symptoms, but it helps some people out. Also, if your anxiety and irritability is through the damn roof due to your PMDD, skip on that coffee in the morning. Changing your eating habits, like scheduling your meals throughout the day–can also help you feel more balanced. Also, avoid anything that might trigger you to lash out or get upset. Skip that sad movie, avoid that argument with mom or dad as much as possible, don’t take your friend not texting you back immediately so personally, etc. Take it easy!


PMDD sucks, but with a little more understanding of the disorder and options at your disposal to ease the symptoms, you’ll be alright!  


Do you have PMDD? Suspect that you might? Any horror stories to share? Tell us in the comments!

You can follow the author, Ashley Reese, on Twitter or Instagram. Don’t worry, she doesn’t bite!

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  • JennMcNaught13

    I found that micronutrients work. My doctor recommended them but I read about them on pmddgirl.com too which is a great site for PMDD anyway.