Are your Hormones driving you Mad?
April is PMDD awareness month and today I want to contribute by helping to shine a light on this debilitating condition.
PMDD stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and it affects 1 in 20 women of reproductive age. Many women experience a range of milder mental health symptoms before their periods start and this is commonly referred to as PMS or premenstrual symptoms.
The symptoms of PMDD are much worse and can be so severe that about 30% of those who have it will attempt suicide. Despite this, it takes on average 12 years before women receive the correct diagnosis and 90% go undiagnosed or are inappropriately diagnosed with other mental health disorders such as Bipolar Depression. Women who have PMDD respond extremely sensitively to hormonal fluctuations during the second half of their menstrual cycle prior to their periods. They tend to function well and are happy during the rest of the month but feel awful during the leading up to their periods. Symptoms tend to disappear as soon as the period starts, and women often perceive the onset of a period as a huge relief, until it all starts over the following month.
These are some of the symptoms they may experience:
Feelings of sadness or despair
Thoughts of suicide
Tension or Anxiety
Frequent crying and emotional lability
Irritability and anger
Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
Problems with memory and focusing
Extreme fatigue and tiredness
Food cravings and binge eating
Feeling out of control
Bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, muscle pain
There is no cure for this condition and no blood or saliva test to diagnose it, but there are treatments available which can help to ease symptoms.
What can you do if you think you have PMDD?
Keep a symptom diary. This will help your Health Professional to make a diagnosis. Track your symptoms either on a paper form (available to print out via IAMP.org or download a validated Symptom Tracker App such as Me v PMDD
Talk to friends and family if you experience distress and have negative and destructive thoughts
Go and see your GP and ask for help. GPs can run blood tests to rule out other conditions (Thyroid, Vitamin D, Iron levels, Vitamin B12 and Folate) and they can prescribe Combined Oral Contraceptive Pills which may help with symptoms by stopping the menstrual cycle. Antidepressants can also help to reduce symptoms by 60-75%. You can insist to be referred to a Specialist (a Gynaecologist or hormone expert- NOT a Psychiatrist!) if the treatment your GP offers doesn’t work.
Take supplements! Take a Magnesium supplement (Magnesium Glycinate 300mg orally or transdermal magnesium spray) and Vitamin B6 may improve milder symptoms
Don’t suffer in slience!
There is still a massive need for more research and most importantly, for more awareness, so that those women who have so far been living under the radar realise, that what they experience has a biological cause and is not just in their head.
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