PMDD: Awareness and Treatment


More than PMS

Every woman you know can likely empathize with the phrase: “I am PMS-ing.” For many of us, it’s as normal as saying that you are hangry or more annoyed with a significant other than usual. Many women experience decreasing motivation and an increasing desire to eat junk food. Approximately 20% of women suffer from PMS symptoms each month, but there is a more serious condition that not enough people are talking about: Premenstrual Dysphoria Disorder (PMDD). 

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Awareness is key

Several years ago, your average educated citizen may not have recognized the term PMDD. According to Harvard Health Medical Professionals, the symptoms for PMDD are present only in the week or two before a woman starts her period, and subside quickly on day one or two of her cycle. In simpler terms, in the 7 to 10-day window before starting my cycle, I feel completely unlike myself. The severity of the symptoms shocks me every single month and I wonder how I haven’t gotten used to it by now. My PMS symptoms have also increased significantly after giving birth to each of my children. 


  • Extreme moodiness, irritability, and irrational anger
  • Feeling anxious and stressed over things that don’t typically bother me
  • A significant increase in the need for sleep
  • Extreme lack of desire and energy to carry out normal activities

You may notice that aside from fatigue, none of the above symptoms are physical. I get cramps and back pain like the next gal, but the main difference between PMS and PMDD is that my mood is noticeably different once my cycle begins—or during a really tough month, by day three.

An Important Distinction

In order to confirm a PMDD diagnosis, specific symptoms must be present. These include difficulty concentrating, exhaustion, sleep changes, feeling out of control, and unpleasant physical symptoms typically associated with one’s period. The key to PMDD is that if these symptoms occur outside of the 7-10 day window, you are likely not suffering from PMDD, but some type of mood disorder. Because many women are not aware that diagnosis exists or that treatment is possible. Also unfortunate is the fact that many women have been misdiagnosed with and treated for mood disorders when the connection to her cycle and mood are not obvious.

There is Hope

In short, if these symptoms sound familiar to you and you wonder whether you might be suffering from PMDD, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. Treatment ranges from prescriptions for anti-depressants, to calcium supplements in the luteal phase, to an intentional observance of one’s diet, sleep habits, and exercise regimen during this tricky time. Personally, I have found both medication and healthy habits to be most effective, as well as limiting caffeine and alcohol. Whichever option you choose, you are not alone.