Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the collection of symptoms experienced by women before their period. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is more severe, and while many of the symptoms of both complaints are similar, in the latter, severe mood swings, depression and anxiety accompany the other symptoms.
PMS affects around 75% of women but the figures are much lower at around 3-8% for PMDD. Although it is a legitimate biological condition, some health professionals do not recognise it. However, for women experiencing PMS or PMDD, the symptoms are very real. In extreme cases, symptoms interfere with daily life.
The good new is that there is a range of treatments that a multidisciplinary team of professionals such as ours can offer to alleviate the worst of the symptoms associated with these conditions.
Often, the symptoms are a combination of physical and emotional symptoms. Some women do not have any signs of PMS when they have their periods or have only mild symptoms. For others, the symptoms are so severe that taking part in everyday activities, such as going to work or school, is difficult. Signs and symptoms include mood swings, fatigue, tummy ache and bloating, headaches, skin breakouts, tender breasts, food cravings, irritability and depression.
The symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS but the mood swings may be extreme. Some of these may include:
Both disorders are commonly defined as endocrine disorders because they are hormone related. However, individuals do experience a range of mental health symptoms that can benefit from PMS therapy. It is important to get all the support you need to manage the effects that all the symptoms have on your life, from a mental as well as physical perspective.
Some people with PMDD may be wrongly diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, so it is crucial you make detailed records of your symptoms and when they present so that potential patterns can be identified.
In common with many syndromes and disorders, the exact cause for PMDD and PMS is not clear. There are suggestions that fluctuating hormone levels during the menstrual cycle may be responsible. Other research indicates that increased sensitivity to the changes in hormone levels may be caused by genetic variations or linked to past traumatic events, although there is no evidence to suggest why or how.
Many women who suffer from PMS/PMDD problems have underlying health concerns, including asthma, allergies and migraines, that get worse during their menstrual period. Some of these other health issues share symptoms with PMS and PMDD including:
Anxiety and depression disorders—similar symptoms that may worsen before or during a period.
Bladder pain syndrome—may have painful cramps during PMS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—cramping, bloating and gas
Self-care and seeking professional help are good places to start. At DFS, we embrace a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to tailor a PMS or PMDD therapy program to your exact needs.
Our services may include counselling with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help you manage the way you think about your PMS and progressive relaxation or mindfulness techniques to help stress reduction. We offer “mood shifting” programs and our allied health team includes a dietitian and occupational therapist who can advise on diet and movement that could alleviate your symptoms and lift your mood.