Many women experience mood changes and other symptoms that coincide with their monthly periods, a phenomenon known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, up to 10 percent of menstruating women develop severe depression, irritability, and other serious side effects each month. This syndrome, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), is a chronic condition that can be managed with medication and other treatment modalities.
What Causes PMDD?
While experts don’t know exactly what causes PMDD, they theorize that the hormonal changes associated with menstruation cause an abnormal reaction in certain women. This reaction includes a depleted level of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps regulate mood. Low serotonin levels are associated with depression and other mood disorders.
Though symptoms vary widely from woman to woman, most who have PMDD will experience some combination of physical and psychological symptoms that may include mood swings; depression, tension, and anxiety; anger and irritability; lack of interest in usual activities; fatigue and sleep disturbances; trouble concentrating; appetite changes; and/or physical problems like bloating, tender breasts, headache, or joint pain. These symptoms start up to 11 days or as little as five days before menstruation begins and stop shortly after the period starts. Doctors typically diagnose PMDD in women who have at least five of these symptoms after ruling out other disorders, such as thyroid issues, gynecological conditions, or unrelated mental illness.
Treatment Options for PMDD
Some women with PMDD are prescribed an antidepressant. Oral contraceptives can also be effective in reducing hormonal symptoms of PMDD. Your doctor might recommend controlling some symptoms with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Beyond medication, lifestyle changes can also help reduce or eliminate some of the symptoms of PMDD. This includes eating a nutritious, balanced diet that restricts salt, caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol. Vitamin supplements, particularly calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and magnesium, may also be effective. Exercise helps to raise serotonin levels and may have some effect in calming the emotional symptoms associated with PMDD. Some women find talk therapy and relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and massage help to manage their symptoms.
If you’re experiencing mood changes and other symptoms before and during your period that go beyond the scope of simple PMS, talk with one our medical team members at South Lake OB/GYN. We will work with you to determine whether your symptoms constitute PMDD. Then, we can recommend treatments that can help control the disorder. Contact South Lake OB/GYN today to schedule your consultation.