It can take years to realise that your pre-menstrual symptoms are abnormal – in my case, about twenty. Acute depression, suicidal feelings, paranoia, pent-up anger – I just assumed that all the other girls & women felt this way too, & hid theirs really well! Eventually I compared notes with friends, & discovered that my experience was unusual. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, only 3 – 8% of women experience “pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder”, where symptoms akin to deep clinical depression surface during the week leading up to your period.
We’re not talking about feeling bloated, greasy & a bit snappy – this is a severe, emotional experience that can have you weeping in bed for hours, wondering how you’re going to get through it… made all the more confusing by how swiftly your feelings can change for the better again, once your period starts.
There are experts who criticize the diagnosis as a myth spread by big pharmaceutical companies, but apparently these experts have never experienced PMDD themselves! It’s definitely real. And since none of the big pharmas, sadly, are actually offering a cure, the theory seems paranoid.
That said, there are several things you can do to lessen & maybe even cure your PMDD:
Keeping track of time
Knowing that your current misery is down to your PMDD does help you feel more in control of it – you realise it’s not going to last forever. It’s not a cure-all, though. I have “PMT!” set up to repeat in my calendar, but it can still catch me out. My cycle isn’t regular as clockwork, & symptoms can arrive early. But it still helps.
Agnus Castus (“Chasteberry”)
It really works! For me, anyway, & for 52% of women in controlled scientific studies carried out in Europe. Many of this 52% found their pre-menstrual symptoms permanently disappeared, so it’s certainly worth giving it a try, just in case you’re one of the lucky ones. The scientists used dry tablets to get these results. I’ve found that the liquid extract works well for me, taken twice a day in water.
A tough one if you’re a coffee lover, or indeed if you experience exhaustion as part of your premenstrual symptoms. But caffeine can make you anxious, & you really don’t need any help winding your thoughts into an anxious state when you’re already battling PMDD. It can also lead to water retention.
Many women have seen marked improvement in their pre-menstrual symptoms after taking vitamin B6. I’ve found that it gives me terrible acne, which is so painful that I’ve not taken the supplement long enough to see if it works on my PMDD. But apparently this is a rare side-effect, so you may well see better results.
Selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors
Studies have shown SSRIs (a particular type of antidepressant) to relieve PMDD when taken during the final week before the period. I found that they made feel drunk & dizzy! Which may sound fun, but not if you’re trying to get on with life. However, these drugs can have very varied effects on different people, so as always it’s worth keeping an open mind & trying each potential cure. Just make sure you try them one at a time