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April is here (my blog post is a little bit late)! But it’s PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) Awareness Month. PMDD is more than just cramps and mood swings – it’s time we unpack PMDD and share awareness for those who live with it.

If I had a R5 for every time I have heard: “It is just PMS. Every person who menstruates suffers from it so you just have to learn to live with it?” I would be a billionaire. The reality is that we do not have enough conversations about PMS and most importantly PMDD.

So, what exactly is PMDD? Well, it’s like the evil twin of PMS. You know, that time of the month when everything feels a bit off, and you can’t decide if you want to laugh, cry, or throw your phone across the room because someone texted you “K” instead of a proper reply. Yeah, that.

But PMDD takes it up a notch. It’s not just feeling a bit irritable or bloated; it’s feeling like you’ve been hit by a ton of emotional bricks. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that goes beyond the typical mood swings and discomfort many menstruators experience before their periods. It affects about 3-8% of menstruating individuals and is characterized by emotional and physical symptoms that disrupt daily life.

PMDD Graphic by @alyseruriani

PMDD often gets brushed off like it’s no big deal. “Oh, it’s just hormones,” they say. But let me tell you, it’s a BIG deal. It can mess with your work, your relationships, your sanity – you name it. Unlike PMS, which might cause temporary discomfort, PMDD symptoms are more intense, lasting for several days to two weeks before menstruation and improving shortly after menstruation begins.

The big difference is the severity. Think of PMS as a mild headache that lasts a couple of days. So in this case, taking medication will ease the headache away. PMDD is more of a crippling migraine that could put you in bed for a week. Take any PMS symptoms and amplify the symptoms to the point that depression, anxiety, panic attacks, binge eating, extreme exhaustion, fatigue, insomnia occur 7-10 days before your actual period. More PMDD symptoms include:

  • Anger
  • Crying spells
  • Feeling out of control
  • Forgetfulness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Acne
  • Back pain
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle Spams
  • Heart palpitations
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Loss of interest in activities and relationships

The strange thing is that experts are still trying to figure out what the underlying cause of PMDD is. So far studies have shown that people with PMDD are more sensitive to the effects of hormonal changes due to their genes. According to Aunt Flo, it’s thought to be related to the fluctuation of hormones, particularly serotonin, which plays a key role in regulating mood. Menstruators with PMDD might have an increased sensitivity to normal hormonal changes, leading to the extreme symptoms experienced. Essentially, your hormones are normal (it is not an imbalance) but your body’s reaction to those fluctuations is abnormal. People with PMDD will have a sensitivity to those changes as they rise and fall.

That’s why PMDD Awareness Month is so important. It’s a chance for us to stand up and say, “Hey, this matters. My feelings matter. My health matters.” It’s about breaking the silence and letting others know they’re not alone in this. But it’s not just about raising awareness; it’s about taking care of ourselves too. Trust me, I’ve been there – curled up on the couch with a tub of ice cream, wondering if I’ll ever feel normal again. But through trial and error (and maybe a few too many Google searches), I’ve learned a thing or two about managing PMDD.

Self-care is key, my friends. Whether it’s indulging in your favorite guilty pleasure, going for a walk in nature, or simply taking a deep breath and reminding yourself that this too shall pass – find what works for you and hold onto it like a lifeline. You can track your cycles with the Me v PMDD which is a free app that lets you track both your symptoms and treatments. The company also has a blog that frequently shares stories from REAL people living with PMDD.

And let’s not forget the importance of reaching out for support. Whether it’s talking to a trusted friend, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional, or joining an online community of fellow PMDD warriors – don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not weak for needing support; you’re human.

So, as we journey through PMDD Awareness Month together, let’s remember to be kind to ourselves and each other. Let’s listen, learn, and lend a helping hand to those who need it most.


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