Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – the serious side to PMT

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Jasmine Kluge takes a look at the little known Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and shares her own story of recognising the symptoms

It’s generally accepted that women are a little more moody during their time of the month, and for decades it has been trivialised by humour and played down as just another complexity of the female species.

It is true that the hormone imbalance can cause an alteration in a women’s mood and this is widely recognised by women and men alike. However there is a serious side to this long running joke which not many people are aware of.

It’s called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD) and affects three to eight percent of the female population.

As a relatively new disorder, much of the research devoted to it is fairly recent and is only beginning to be recognised by text books and doctors. This means that the real number of people affected could be much higher than it is currently thought.

In the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the universal resource of the criteria for diagnosis of all mental health disorders, it was recognised only in the appendix as something that required further investigation. However, in the 2013 version of the DSM it will be recognised as a properly disorder which has a verified genetic component as indicated in several studies and has a very real impact on many women.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is an extreme form of premenstrual tension and has a very severe impact on its sufferers. The symptoms really are no joke. PDD causes depression, suicidal ideation and a deep despair. It’s not just an irritability or a pattern of irrational behaviour, it is a severe and profound misery that is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain due to hormone irregularity that the menstrual cycle can create.

For some unknown reason a women’s cycle tends to emulate that of the other women they live with. As an adolescent living in a house with my sister and mother, I often noticed our household would fall into a chaotic mess of arguments and tears. We would all be at loggerheads with each other; disputes soon escalated into violent hysterics and I would think to myself we must all be mad. None of us were behaving rationally and we weren’t coping either.

Looking back there was a definitive pattern to my family’s and my own behaviour and since this discovery I have chosen a contraception method that doesn’t allow me to have periods. On top of all my mental health issues I cannot afford to be so suicidal for one week out of every month as this is the effect my Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder has on me.

The reason I have chosen to be so honest and share my experiences is because this is a very real disorder that many women don’t realise they have and I want to raise awareness and support other women.

When you become sad for no reason your mind will search for the negativity in your life and expose it. It is a defence mechanism that your brain uses in order to give you a reason for your emotion, as it is not rational to feel sad without a cause. This is why many women do not make the association with their menstrual cycle and accept the misery as part of their life. But if there is a connection, if there is a certain time of the month when these feelings occur then there is treatment out there to address it. You do not have to suffer.

As PDD is a newly recognised disorder you may have to really make your case to your GP, but there are treatments available. Both antidepressants and different contraception methods have been proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms you may well be suffering. It is not just part of being a woman, it is a disorder with available treatments and you don’t have to tolerate it.

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