How is PMDD Diagnosed?

Jan 9, 2021

Summary

  • PMDD has a range of physical (body aches, bloating, sore breasts, changes in sleep/appetite) and psychological (irritability, anxiety, lack of energy, mood swings) symptoms that usually begin 7-10 days before your period.
  • Although these may overlap with PMS, PMDD can have serious and debilitating psychological symptoms such as extreme move swings, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
  • To get a diagnosis, your doctor is likely to ask you to keep track of your symptoms for a few cycles to notice any patterns, as well as do a physical examination and blood tests to rule out other conditions.
  • At the moment, there is no blood or saliva test for PMDD.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition that is estimated to affect 5%-8% of women of a reproductive age,(1) yet many go through their whole life without a diagnosis. It is really helpful to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can about PMDD and how it differs from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as this will help you to get the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

 

Symptoms(2)(3)

Although everyone has their own unique experience of PMDD, there are certain physical and psychological symptoms to look out for. These symptoms typically begin 7-10 days before the start of your period(4).

Physical symptoms

  • Soreness in the breasts
  • Muscular and joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Changed in appetite
  • Sleep problems

Psychological, emotional and cognitive symptoms

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Feeling upset
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Difficulty concentrating and brain fog
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of energy
  • Losing interest in activities you enjoy
  • Suicidal feelings

 

How is PMDD different to PMS?

Whilst reading the above symptoms, you may have noticed that they overlap with some of the symptoms of PMS. However, the symptoms of PMDD are far more severe and greatly disrupt your life. There are some serious psychological symptoms that are present in PMDD, which are not so pronounced in PMS. These are feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, extreme mood swings, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and anger(4).

 

How do I get a diagnosis?(2)

To get diagnosed with PMDD, you will have to visit your doctor. They may ask you to keep a log of your symptoms for a few months, including things like their severity and when they occur in your cycle. This is to help them (and you) to determine whether it’s PMDD or potentially something else, by looking at your symptom pattern.

You can track your cycle very simply in a notebook, or use an app. There are also many cycle tracker templates online which you might find useful! Your doctor is also likely to run some blood tests and do a physical examination to rule out other conditions such as a hormone imbalance, thyroid issues or vitamin B12 deficiency.

 

References

1. Cunningham, J., Yonkers, K. A., O’Brien, S., & Eriksson, E. (2009). Update on research and treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Harvard review of psychiatry, 17(2), 120-137.

2. Mind. (2017, September). Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: About PMDD. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd/about-pmdd/

3. IAPMD (2019) Symptoms of PMDD. https://iapmd.org/i-think-i-have-pmdd

4. Mayo Clinic. (2018, November 29). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Different from PMS? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/expert-answers/pmdd/faq-20058315

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