Are your PMS Symptoms Normal? When you Should Get Checked Out
Let’s face it, having PMS can be a drag. Most of us get super moody, have inexplicable cravings, and even experience bloating. But for some of us, PMS symptoms can get so bad they border on nightmare-ish, making us dread that time of the month.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, is a more serious form of PMS that affects up to 5 percent of women of childbearing age.1 Symptoms can cause mental distress and interfere with work, school, and relationships.2 Plus, women who suffer from anxiety or depression are more likely to experience PMDD.2 If you think your PMS symptoms are getting worse or interfering with your quality of life, make an appointment with your doctor. The good news is there are treatment options that can help.
What causes PMDD?
While it’s not clear what causes PMDD, research suggests hormonal changes that trigger your period can also worsen the symptoms of depression, mood swings and anxiety.3 Some research suggests a brain chemical called serotonin may also play a role in PMDD. Serotonin levels change throughout the menstrual cycle, and some women may be more sensitive to these changes.3
When should I go to my doctor?
Keep a record of when you get your period and when symptoms occur, as well as their severity. If you find that you experience more than 5 of the following symptoms for over two or three menstrual cycles, go see your doctor to discuss the possibility of PMDD.1
- Lasting irritability or anger
- Sadness or despair
- Extreme mood swings or frequent crying
- Trouble concentrating
- Food cravings or appetite changes
- Fatigue, trouble sleeping
- Severe cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
How is PMDD treated?
PMDD is usually treated with prescribed medications or recommended lifestyle changes, or both. Your doctor may discuss a variety of coping methods and treatments for you to consider, including1-3:
- Anti-depressants. Research shows that taking antidepressants, called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may help alleviate symptoms of increased anxiety or depression.
- Birth control. Taking the FDA-approved oral contraceptive that combines estrogen and drospirenone may improve PMDD symptoms.
- Exercise. Exercising may help ease symptoms such as moodiness and depression.
- Therapy. Talking about symptoms may help some women cope with PMDD.
- Supplements. Calcium—about 1,200 mg in food or in supplement form—has been shown to improve PMS symptoms in some women and may help with PMDD.
If you think you may be suffering from PMDD or other menstrual problems, talk with your doctor to learn about potential treatment options.
- Office on Women’s Health. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). US Department of Health & Human Services. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome. March 21, 2018.
- Lobo RA, Pinkerton J. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). J Clin Endocrinol Metabolism. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/95/4/E1/2596293Published April 1, 2010.
- Rapkin AJ, Lewis EI. Treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Women’s Health. 2013;9(6): 537–556.