4 Dangerous Myths About PMDD
People who menstruate often experience changes in mood and some physical symptoms in the days leading up to their periods. About 20 percent of people who menstruate experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which consists of mostly physical symptoms and mild mood changes.
Approximately eight percent of people who menstruate experience premenstrual dysphoria disorder (PMDD) in the days leading up to their periods. This intense and emotional disorder is relatively common, yet it is highly misunderstood.
Myths about PMDD can cause people to be misdiagnosed or never seek help at all. It’s important for everyone to help in busting myths about PMDD, even people who don’t menstruate.
Myth: PMDD Isn’t Real
PMDD is very real to the people who live with it, their loved ones, and the researchers who study the disorder. After many years of research to help define it, PMDD was added to the DSM-5 as an official mental health diagnosis. The DSM-5 is the official book for mental and behavioral health professionals on which they base clinical diagnoses and more.
Like all disorders. takes a very real toll on people’s lives. For years and sometimes decades, people who experience PMDD struggle with their emotions and become the butt of jokes about periods. PMDD also has clearly defined diagnostic criteria, and there are treatment options for people who live with the disorder. This disorder is real in every sense.
Myth: PMDD is the Same as PMS
At first glance, PMS and PMDD seem like the same disorder. Both issues arise a few days before someone starts their period and they have similar symptoms.
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PMS and PMDD share symptoms such as:
- Aches in the joints and muscles
- Sleep disturbances
- Cravings for particular foods
- Mood changes
However, the severity of the mood changes and the way these changes impact a person’s life are entirely different. Generally, PMDD has more severe psychological symptoms than PMS. For example, someone with PMS may have a somewhat lower mood than normal. Meanwhile, someone with PMDD may feel hopeless or have suicidal thoughts.
Note: If you or someone you love has thoughts of suicide, please seek immediate care. You can go to the nearest emergency room, call 9-1-1, or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Myth: PMDD is All in Your Head
This myth is often paired with the idea that people with PMDD should just think happy thoughts or put mind over matter. All of these related myths come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what causes PMDD.
All people who menstruate experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their menstrual cycles. However, each person experiences these shifts differently. For some people, the changes in hormone levels cause mild bloating and other tolerable physical symptoms. Many people experience PMS due to hormonal shifts throughout their cycles.
PMDD is a less common but more severe reaction to hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle. In this sense, PMDD is an endocrine disorder because the cause is hormonal in nature. However, it is classified in the DSM-5 due to the serious psychological symptoms.
Myth: There’s No Treatment for People with PMDD
Far too many people go without treatment for PMDD because they believe there is no hope. Some people may not even realize thart sever psychological symptoms aren’t typical in the days before a period. The good news is that there are many treatment options for people who live with PMDD.
Treatment options for PMDD include:
SSRIs, a type of antidepressant, are the first-line treatment for people with PMDD. Other methods are only used if the initial medications do not work for the patient. Hysterectomy is ony used as a last resort.
Many lifestyle changes can help people with PMDD naturally reduce symptoms. This can include eating a health diet, reducing stress, and getting regular exercise. These changes are typically recommended alongside medical treatment, not as a replacement. It’s always important to consult your doctor before making changes to your care plan.