PMDD Awareness


This is a post on the menstrual cycle, bail now if you’re not interested.  Long post, forgive me.


I experience what is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, or the “dark days.”  It is defined on Wikipedia as a severe form of PMS affecting less than 10% of women.  I wouldn’t even relate it to PMS except that both occur within the menstrual cycle.

The symptoms are listed as follows, also from Wikipedia:

  • feelings of deep sadness or despair
  • feelings of intense tension or anxiety
  • increased intense sensitivity to rejection or criticism
  • panic attacks
  • rapid and severe mood swings, bouts of uncontrollable crying
  • lasting irritability or anger, increased interpersonal conflicts; typically sufferers are unaware of the impact they have on those close to them
  • apathy or disinterest in daily activities and relationships
  • difficulty concentrating
  • chronic fatigue
  • food cravings or binge eating
  • insomnia or hypersomnia; sleeping more than usual, or (in a smaller group of sufferers) being unable to sleep
  • feeling overwhelmed or feelings of being out of control
  • increase or decrease in sex drive
  • increased need for emotional closeness

Common physical symptoms include:

  • breast tenderness or swelling, heart palpitations, headaches, joint or muscle pain, swollen face and nose
  • an altered view of one’s body – a sensation of ‘bloating’, feeling fat or actual weight gain.


I’ve always had cycle issues, but I didn’t always go through PMDD.  It started after my first pregnancy, which I only know in hindsight.  I had no idea what my problem was back then, about five years ago.  And when you don’t know, it can make the problem ten times worse.  For about three years I revolved in and out of a depressive cycle, the chemical depression of PMDD mixing with my own sadness.

Why couldn’t I just make myself push through those days?  Why couldn’t I be the happy, semi-energetic person I was the other thirty days of my cycle?  I have extra-long cycles to begin with, probably a contributing hormonal factor to the monthly onslaught of horribleness.  Confusing my health even more is a tendency toward anemia, discussed in an early post.

Let me explain the difference between PMS and PMDD for me personally.  Every woman is different and will respond to hormones and imbalances differently.  PMS was no big deal for me.  I barely noticed it was there other than a few inexplicable tears every few months.  Totally under control.  What really affects me about PMDD are the feelings I wouldn’t normally have.  Hopelessness and despair, anxiety, disinterest in normal activity, and overly-apologetic behavior (I’m sorry I exist) are not me.  I also have to stress, it’s not just those emotions, it’s the severity of them.  I don’t give in to feeling sorry for myself, being neither productive or positive.  PMDD doesn’t give me a choice, it’s overwhelming.

And I can’t, let me repeat, I CANNOT stop them from appearing.  Even if I completely forget my luteal phase (the days between ovulation and menstruation) is coming up, PMDD still shows up.  One morning I will be jazzed to start the day, the next I don’t wanna.  My brain and my body tell me all day “I don’t wanna.”

“Do it anyway,” my inner voice screams.

“Nope,” says the PMDD, “You suck.”

I’ve discussed options with my doctor.  My choices for treatment are chemical birth control, anti-depressants, and the spotty chance that B-vitamins might work.  Along with good diet and exercise, already undertaken, that’s it.  For personal reasons, I prefer not to use chemical birth control or anti-depressants.  I was left with B-vitamins.  I started taking the recommended complex for treating depression.  It did nothing.  Over a period of several months I felt nothing.  So I switched brands, slightly altered the composition.  This time I noted a difference, but it wasn’t a good one.  Instead of helping with PMDD, the B-vitamins had the odd effect of scattering my focus.  I couldn’t concentrate very well even when not undergoing PMDD.  So I trashed that one.  My focus returned, and I gave up on supplements.

Traditional supplements, anyway.  My boyfriend is a great guy, but he has a weakness.  He loves soda.  He resists most of the time, but sometimes he drinks things like Red Bull, Rockstar, and Full Throttle as a treat.  One day, he left a can of blue Full Throttle in the fridge during my PMDD days.  I thought to myself, “Caffeine.  I need caffeine.  Why not.”

Note that Full Throttle contains not only egregious amounts of caffeine and sugar, but B-vitamins 6 and 12, the exact two used for treating depression.

My day was wonderful.  And it lasted.  Past the caffeine and sugar rush, I still felt like me, even into the next day.  I approached this method with caution because of the risks that come with energy drinks.  I experimented.  One can per day of PMDD.  This is what I use even now.  It’s not always enough.  Coupled with meditation and a lot of healthy awareness about which thoughts are mine, and which are artificially negative, my PMDD is manageable.  I plan for it, I plan easy, fun days with my kids and in my work (I write fiction at home).  Best of all, I don’t add to it, dragging out the depression.

Unlike before when I had no knowledge, I can say, “This too shall pass.”


For more information on the menstrual cycle, I recommend to everyone Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  The stuff women should know about their bodies.  Toni Weschler’s book and encouragement have probably saved my life.  I wrote a whole blog post before breakfast, and this is day 3 of 9 days of PMDD.

~ by Rachel Francis on February 14, 2013.

4 Responses to “PMDD Awareness”

  1. I think it’s great that you’re addressing this. I too suffer from PMDD, and sometimes when I’m suffering a bad month (up to 3 weeks of being symptomatic in one 40ish day cycle) and I’m on my 5th straight day of having a headache, and my fingers are so swollen I can barely type, when I’m curled up in my bed, refusing to move, absolutely PRAYING to menstruate sometime in the foreseeable future, (while simultaneously trying not to sob hysterically or lash out irrationally,) I forget that life can be anything other than that. I find myself constantly evaluating my thought process: “Is this really how I feel about this thing, or is there a tiny hormone demon steering me?” and I am quite often the object of criticism for sleeping for up to 14 hours a day and still having to force myself to get up. (at which point I can only attempt a shadow of a normal, functioning life.) For various reasons, I too eschew hormonal contraceptives, but I am already packed with caffeine and sugar most of the time, due to my love affair with Mountain Dew. Not that caffeine affects me anyway; it never has, other than to make me sleepy or get the, ahem, “digestive train” moving along. I am intrigued by your experiences with B vitamins. I’ve been meaning to try them, as I’ve read some stuff about B vitamins helping depression and whatnot, but I haven’t found a convenient time to experiment- seems like everything is always in a state of upheaval around here. To this day, I still rely on the knowledge that has been imparted to me via the book you mentioned, Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I find myself to be empowered by knowing that as crazy as my body may be, I’m (probably) not dying, and everything will smooth out (for a brief time, eventually) if I can just hang on and get through it. 🙂

    • Oh those tiny hormone demons… How they plague me. I force myself to stay awake during PMDD because sleep rarely helps with the type of fatigue it causes. That and I have itty bitties that need food and normalcy.

      That book should be a standard read in health class. Women’s health is not a frickin’ mystery anymore. If you ever do want to experiment with B-vitamins, Full Throttle is easy and cheap.

      I’ve received quite a few positive responses from others with PMDD. It’s not an easy-to-understand condition. I don’t ask for forgiveness, I don’t make excuses, I simply try to contain the damage to myself.

  2. It’s very straightforward to find out any matter on web as compared to books, as I found this article at this web site.

  3. Hiya Racheal. My name is Suzi Taylor and I too have suffered from PMDD all of my adult life. After 25 years of suicidal urges, hallucinations and varies episodes of psychosis, I have now had a full hysterectomy with removal of Ovaries which has resulted in a complete cessation of symptoms. I go from being delighted of course, to being devastated when I think of how I have been robbed of the formative years of my children s lives. I am amazed by this complete recovery and have since written a book titled ‘ I blame the Hormones” which I hope will soon be published thus raising awareness of this terrible illness. I am so thankful that I have found your website and would like to make contact in the hope that we can pool resources and reach out to other sufferers. In the meantime, stay well and God bless you always, Suzi xx

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