Less Common Mental Disorders: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

May 27, 2023

You’ve probably heard of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMS), the colloquial and technical term for the physical and emotional symptoms that the majority of women experience in the week before their menstrual cycle. PMS is a real thing—hence why it’s called premenstrual syndrome and not premenstrual problem or minor inconvenience. Unfortunately, it has an equally real cousin that’s much worse: premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

PMDD is a mood disorder based around a woman’s period. This means that the disorder is cyclical and not constant, similar to seasonal depression. However, this sometimes means that PMDD symptoms are worse than symptoms of constant disorders, since they’re less likely to level out or plateau. 

PMDD symptoms cover a wide range of general mental illness traits: fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, lethargy, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, moodiness, low self-esteem, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation are some of the most common. That’s not the worst of it, though, because these symptoms are often accompanied by the regular physical period problems such as bloating, tenderness, and serious abdominal cramps. 

Despite its chronic nature, there are things that have the propensity to help PMDD sufferers: some birth control pills have been shown to be effective, and many women say that SSRIs help, too (SSRIs, or selective seratonin reputake inhibitors, are the pills most commonly used to treat depression). Natural remedies like aromatherapy and changes in diet and exercise can further increase the success rates of these solutions. 

It’s important to respect the fact that PMDD is a real condition that can have serious and devastating effects on someone’s mood. It isn’t just feeling grumpy before your period, and it’s just as much of a problem as regular depression or any other mental illness is. In a lot of cases, PMDD can be more difficult than major depressive disorder because again, it’s cyclical, meaning that symptoms will resolve completely before beginning again. This might sound like a good thing, but it means that during or after their period, the person is going to remember what it feels like to be in their typical state, which can make it even harder to feel their mood drop when the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle starts again.

If you’re a man and you know people that experience PMS or PMDD (and, unless you live in a frat house that you never leave, you do), try your best to be respectful of them, even when you don’t fully understand why they’re feeling or acting a certain way. That said, don’t assume that someone’s actions are related to their PMS or PMDD; it’s rude and women don’t take kindly to it, especially when they aren’t on their period. So try to refrain from asking “Are you on your period?” when your girlfriend is being crabby, and instead ask if something’s wrong or what you can do to help. 

Periods are hard, and so are mood disorders. When you get both at the same time, it’s really important that you have people on your side that can care for and take care of you while you’re experiencing symptoms. It can be difficult to love someone with PMDD, but it’s important to remember that they need your care, love, and patience, because it isn’t easy for them to experience it either. Calmness is key. 

If you’re enjoying these posts, you can find the video versions on TikTok! Remember to share with friends and talk about these topics with others so we can all reduce stigma and learn how to help each other together.

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