Is it PMS, Or Something More?

Cramps. Nausea. Headaches. Irritability. All of these sound like typical symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Most menstruating women have had problems like this at some point in their lives, although some more than others. For me, the symptoms and severity vary month to month. We can all agree that they are bothersome, but when do they become a bigger problem? That question has been asked for a long time, but it's only recently that a proposed answer has been found. The medical community has identified the more extreme problems associated with your period as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) has many of the same symptoms as PMS, but they are severe enough to interfere with your life. You could describe it as 'PMS on espresso'. In addition to the physical problems such as bloating and fatigue, PMDD carries mental symptoms of mood swings, tension, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, extreme irritability and a change in sleeping patterns. Like PMS, the symptoms occur about a week to 10 days before your period and dissipate around the start of your period.

PMDD can be hard to diagnose because, along with PMS, it shares symptoms with other disorders. For instance, the severe mood swings and irritability mentioned above are also indicators of bipolar disorder. The loss of interest in activities and changes in sleeping patterns are also typical of clinical depression, and the fatigue is an indicator of a number of disorders. Since PMDD is a relatively new diagnosis, it might not be the first thing your doctor thinks of when you mention your symptoms. It may very well be that you have one of these other mental disorders, but your period simply exacerbates them. However, bipolar disorder doesn't usually cause bloating, and clinical depression doesn't usually cause cramps and nausea. Regardless of cause, you need to tell your doctor all of your symptoms when you go to see her so that she can treat them properly and help keep them from feeding off of each other.It helps to keep a chart of some sort of records of what symptoms you have, the severity of them and when they start so your doctor can have a better picture of what your cycle is like.

However, there are many treatment options available. For the mentally-based symptoms, your doctor can prescribe antidepressants such as Effexor, Zoloft and Sarafem. Sarafem is has the same active ingredients as the antidepressant Prozac. The antidepressant Cymbalta is also useful for the aches and pains that come with PMDD. Some birth control pills such as Yaz or Yasmin can help to regulate the hormones that cause your menstrual symptoms so that they are lessened or alleviated entirely! Wouldn't that be nice! Lifestyle changes like reducing caffeine and exercising may also help.

If you think you may have PMDD or want to explore treatment options, see your doctor. Whether it's PMDD or something else, you owe it to yourself to at least get yourself checked out.

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