What is premenstrual dysphoric disorder? Signs and symptoms to be aware of

PMDD is a much more severe form of premenstrual syndrome

Woman with premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms, low mood. (Getty Images)
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can cause a range of severe physical and mental symptoms. (Getty Images)

Emmerdale's Cathy [spoiler alert] discovers her symptoms could be caused by premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in next week's episode.

Last week, the teen was taken to hospital following a manic episode, and has shown signs of extreme mood swings and impulsive behaviour.

With the soap helping to shine a light on the condition, we take a look at what exactly PMDD is and what lifestyle changes may help.

Read more: Can your period really get 'stuck'?

What is PMDD?

Woman sleeping. (Getty Images)
PMDD might cause more extreme fatigue or sleep problems. (Getty Images)

PMDD is a far more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It causes many different emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before your period, according to Mind.

PMDD happens during what is known as the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, the time between ovulation and your period starting. This can last for around two weeks for most people, though can also be longer or shorter.

During the luteal phase you might have PMDD symptoms as often as every day, or for a few days.

While many of us will experience PMS, of which symptoms can also be challenging, the effects of PMDD are much worse and can affect your daily life. You might even find it difficult to work, socialise and have healthy relationships.

Read more: 8 new NHS online therapy courses and apps recommended to help treat depression

PMDD symptoms

As everyone is different, symptoms might differ for each person. While the list is not exhaustive, these are some common PMDD signs you might experience, as per Mind's website.

Emotional symptoms

  • mood swings

  • feeling upset or tearful

  • lack of energy

  • less interest in activities you normally enjoy

  • feeling hopeless

  • suicidal feelings

  • feeling angry or irritable

  • feeling anxious

  • feeling tense or on edge

  • feeling overwhelmed or out of control

  • difficulty concentrating

Physical symptoms

  • breast tenderness or swelling

  • pain in your muscles and joints

  • headaches

  • feeling bloated

  • changes in your appetite, such as overeating or having specific food cravings

  • sleep problems

  • increased anger or conflict with people around you

  • becoming very upset if you feel that others are rejecting you

As PMDD is related to your menstrual cycle, it's likely you won't have symptoms while pregnant, though they may return when you start ovulating again.

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PMDD causes

The exact causes of PMDD aren't fully known but it has been associated with being sensitive to changes in hormones, i.e. those that occur during your monthly menstrual cycle.

Other possible causes, or factors that could exacerbate symptoms, include genetics (increased sensitivity to hormones could be due to genetic variations inherited from parents), smoking (might impact on hormone sensitivity), trauma (emotional or physical) and stress.

PMDD is what is known as an endocrine disorder, meaning it is hormone-related. But as people experience many mental health symptoms (as well as physical), it is also listed as a mental health problem in the DSM-5, a key manual used by doctors to help with diagnoses.

Woman speaking to female GP. (Getty Images)
Help is out there for PMDD. (Getty Images)

Always speak to your doctor if you think you might have signs of PMDD.

There are lifestyle changes – related to exercise, diet, sleep stress, alcohol, smoking and caffeine – that might help improve your physical and mental health and reduce your symptoms and treatment options available, including a type of antidepressant, talking therapy and counselling, painkillers and more.

If you are trans or non-binary, your treatment options may be different if you're taking or considering taking hormone treatments – speak to your GP about what's best for you.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, remember you are not alone and there is help out there. If you think you need urgent care you can call 999, go to A&E, or call the Samaritans on 116 123 to talk. You can also get advice from a GP by requesting an emergency appointment, or calling 111 out of hours.

Watch: Personal trainer who struggled with body image reveals natural way women's bodies change throughout menstrual cycle