This April, in honor of PMDD Awareness Month, we’re shedding light on this often misunderstood condition. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) can cause significant emotional and physical symptoms in a week or two leading up to a period.

Our community has been asking a lot about PMDD, so we’re addressing those questions! Our Social Media Manager, Brittany, sat down with Dana, a therapist on our team, to answer your most common questions. They’ll discuss how to manage PMDD, whether you experience it yourself or support someone who does.

With over her 30 years of experience, Dana has developed an integrative approach to supporting individuals facing diverse challenges, focusing on harmonizing body, emotions, and mind for optimal well-being.

Brittany: Can you explain the key differences between PMDD symptoms and those of general depression, especially during the menstrual cycle?
Dana: PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) symptoms occur cyclically, typically in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, whereas general depression symptoms may persist throughout the month. 
Symptoms are closely linked to hormonal fluctuations and are often more severe in intensity compared to general depression symptoms. Common symptoms include mood swings, irritability, and physical symptoms like bloating and breast tenderness, whereas general depression symptoms may involve persistent sadness, loss of interest, and changes in appetite or sleep.

Brittany: How can PMDD affect a person’s daily life and relationships? What are some common challenges people with PMDD face?
Dana: PMDD can significantly disrupt daily functioning, leading to difficulties in maintaining relationships, work productivity, and overall well-being. Relationships may be strained due to mood swings, irritability, and conflicts arising from PMDD symptoms. Daily life activities such as work, household chores, and social interactions may become challenging to manage during PMDD episodes.

Brittany: How do you approach treatment for someone struggling with PMD?  
Dana: Psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals develop coping strategies to manage PMDD symptoms. Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or hormonal treatments may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms. Alternative medicine such as acupuncture, homoeopathy and Bach Flowers may support the process as psychosomatic therapy. Lifestyle modifications (yoga, walking, swimming, meditation) and self-care practices are essential components of treatment for PMDD.

Brittany: What are some of the most effective treatment strategies (therapy, medication, etc.) for individuals with PMDD?
Dana: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop coping skills. Psychosomatic therapy approach to reconnect with your body from a different approach, not only from pain and contraction and go through the emotional pain, to create a different, conscious and joyful relationship with your body. Medications, such as SSRIs, to regulate mood and alleviate physical symptoms. Hormonal treatments like oral contraceptives or GnRH agonists to regulate hormonal fluctuations.

Brittany: What specific lifestyle changes can people with PMDD make to potentially alleviate symptoms? (e.g., diet, exercise, sleep hygiene) 
Dana: A balanced diet focused on lean protein, red meat, green leaf vegetables, carrots, etc with regular meals and adequate hydration. Regular exercise to promote physical and mental well-being and a consistent sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene practices like no electronics in the bedroom, reading or listening to calm music before sleeping. Stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation and relaxation exercises.

Brittany: What coping mechanisms can people with PMDD develop to manage emotional fluctuations and negative thoughts?
Dana: Keeping a mood journal to track symptoms and identify triggers. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques to manage stress and anxiety. Engaging in enjoyable activities and hobbies to distract from negative thoughts. Seeking social support from friends, family, or support groups. It is also important to reach out for individual counseling for constant support.

Brittany: Many of those with PMDD struggle with household chores during their luteal phase. It can be really tough!  Then, when the PMDD subsides, the mountain of laundry, dishes, and other tasks can feel overwhelming.  What advice can you give someone to manage this cycle and avoid feeling so overwhelmed?
Dana: Start by prioritizing tasks and break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Utilize organizational tools such as to-do lists or smartphone apps to stay on track with chores.
Delegate tasks to family members or consider hiring help if feasible. Practice self-compassion and acknowledge limitations during PMDD episodes. Be kind to yourself and to your body: rest, take warm-cold showers, watch fun movies, read nourishing books, talk to a kind friend.

Brittany: How can we address the stigma surrounding PMDD and encourage people to seek help?
Dana: It is crucial to encourage seeking help!  
Educating the public about PMDD to increase awareness and reduce stigma. Encouraging open dialogue about menstrual health and mental well-being. Providing supportive environments where individuals feel comfortable discussing their experiences with PMDD. Promoting access to mental health resources and treatment options for those affected by PMDD.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) can profoundly impact individuals both psychologically and emotionally. It’s crucial to approach PMDD with empathy and understanding, recognizing the challenges individuals face in managing their symptoms and navigating daily life. By acknowledging the cyclical nature of PMDD and its significant impact on mood, relationships, and daily functioning, we can offer support and validation to those affected. Through a combination of psychotherapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and coping strategies, individuals with PMDD can learn to better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Ultimately, fostering a compassionate and empathetic environment is essential in addressing the stigma surrounding PMDD and encouraging individuals to seek the help and support they need.