It’s a disorder that causes severe irritability, binge eating, sadness, anxiety, bloating and fatigue, but it’s not PMS – it’s worse.
Up until now there wasn’t much known about the cause of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), but new research is helping unlock the mysteries of this debilitating condition.
What is PMDD?
According to the Gia Allemand Foundation, PMDD is connected to a woman’s menstrual cycle, but isn’t a hormone disorder. The symptoms usually get worse over time, and women who have it are at an increased risk of postpartum depression and suicidal behaviour.
- Feelings of sadness or despair or even thoughts of suicide
- Feelings of tension or anxiety
- Panic attacks, mood swings, or frequent crying
- Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
- Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
- Trouble thinking or focusing
- Tiredness or low-energy
- Food cravings or binge eating
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling out of control
- Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
The foundation says these symptoms happen during the week or two before menstruation and go away within a few days after bleeding begins, and a diagnosis of PMDD requires the presence of at least five of these symptoms.
New research solves some PMDD mysteries
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered that women who have PMDD are more sensitive to the effects of the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, because of a molecular mechanism in their genes.
“Many women report feelings of irritability, sadness, anxiety during the luteal or premenstrual phase of their cycle,” explained study co-author Peter Schmidt, chief of the Behavioural Endocrinology Branch at the NIH.
“Those concerns have been investigated we’ve realised that perhaps two to five per cent of women who experience these symptoms during the luteal phase will experience a very marked disability and dysfunction associated with that.”
The research team experimented in women with PMDD by ‘turning off’ oestrogen and progesterone, and found this stopped their symptoms. Adding the hormones back saw the symptoms return.
“This is a big moment for women’s health, because it establishes that women with PMDD have an intrinsic difference in their molecular apparatus for response to sex hormones – not just emotional behaviours they should be able to voluntarily control,” said the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s David Goldman.