What Is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, its symptoms and treatment

As women, we all experience monthly changes in our body. It’s our natural cycle of menstruation. However, for a lot of us, these changes can be more than just physical. But oftentimes women’s health issues can be overlooked and understudied, so it’s not always easy to know when to seek help.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a condition which affects around 8% of menstruating women, and can cause extreme emotional and physical symptoms before menstruation. But what is the difference between PMDD and PMS?

What is PMDD? 

PMDD is a condition that affects women during their menstrual cycle. The symptoms are intense, massively impacting your quality of life. PMDD is a disorder of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which are responsible for controlling our mood, emotions and serotonin during the menstrual cycle. This disorder causes women to experience extreme emotional and physical symptoms that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed.

What causes PMDD?

The exact cause of PMDD is not fully understood though research suggests that the main reason for its occurrence is an increased sensitivity to hormones. PMDD occurs right after ovulation which causes a shift in hormones, this hormone change can lead to a serotonin deficiency giving you that feeling of anxiety or depression. It is important to note that PMDD is not a behavioural choice but rather a biological disorder. It can occur at any time in your life but the average age of onset is 26.

Symptoms of PMDD:

Like any disorder, the symptoms of PMDD vary from woman to woman. However, there are a few common symptoms that women may experience. Emotional symptoms can include intense mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, and irritability. Physical symptoms range from bloating, breast tenderness, and extreme fatigue. Women who have PMDD may also experience sharp headaches, anxiety, and depression. Another common symptom is increased noise sensitivity, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and generally just stressed out.

TikTok star, Dixie D’Amelio has openly spoken out about her battle with PMDD, saying: “Once a month for about two weeks, I will go into this dark spiral of depression. I’ll feel like no one cares about me, I’m doing everything wrong and I’m not proud of myself. I’ll even start to cut people out because of it. A lot of people have this but no one talks about it at all.”


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The majority of menstruating women suffer with some form of PMS in the upcoming days before their period. Whether it’s irritability, bloating or fatigue, PMS is something we know all too well. But how can we tell if these symptoms are something more? 

Due to women’s health issues being underreported, we can frequently feel like we’re being oversensitive and that we should simply ‘get on with it.’ But sometimes these symptoms should be cause for concern, and not something you should have to bear alone. PMS symptoms usually occur 3-5 days before a period whereas PMDD onsets up to 14 days before menstruation. The main difference between PMS and PMDD is that one is more severe than another.

Yes, PMS symptoms can leave you moody or anxious, but PMDD can have you feeling extremely overwhelmed to the point where you can’t function. If you feel like your PMS symptoms are severely impacting your everyday life, then you could be suffering from PMDD.


There is no cure for PMDD, but there are ways to manage the symptoms. Treatment options can include lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management techniques. Additionally, medication such as antidepressants and hormonal birth control can be prescribed to help manage these symptoms.

Although PMDD can be a challenging condition to manage, there is hope for women who suffer from it. With the right treatment and lifestyle changes, women can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. It’s important to talk to your doctor about treatment options and seek support from family and friends. If you feel like you are suffering from PMDD, reach out to your GP for advice on how to move forward.

The underreporting on women’s health is a problem that needs to be urgently addressed. In 2023 women still feel misunderstood and unheard by medical experts, with many feeling like there’s a definite gender bias when it comes to medical research. It’s time we shed light to these underreported health concerns, reminding ourselves that these worries are valid and most importantly that you are not alone.

If you’re in anyway worried about your menstrual cycle, PMDD symptoms, or any health related issues, always contact your GP.

Picture via Pexels

By Zana Zee Keough


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