How I Learned to Deal with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

After having my period for roughly 10 years, I thought that my body would have stopped throwing me curve balls. After realizing that I was suffering from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, I figured out that that was far from true.

During my sophomore year of college, I learned about PMDD from my mom who had also experienced symptoms. PMDD is defined as a severe form of PMS that typically consists of intense behavioral shifts, as well as physical. Symptoms usually range in the emotional field, including extreme mood swings, sadness/depression, anger, irritability, or even panic attacks. PMDD symptoms are almost always resolved by the onset of menstruation, meaning that as soon as I get my period, all those terrible feelings begin to fade away.

I first realized something was irregular during the latter portion of my high school career. About two weeks prior to getting my period, I would become incredibly irritable and angry over very small inconveniences in my life. Something as minute as a person walking slowly in front of me would irritate me beyond belief. If I got in a small argument with my mom, it would end with me screaming and sobbing. For about two years, I assumed this was normal. Due to my lack of knowledge regarding both my body and PMDD, I thought that being angry was just part of regular PMS, therefore that was just how I was. I figured I needed to learn to control my emotions more.

In my first and second years of college, the anger I experienced during PMS shifted to intense sadness. Over the duration of my freshman year, whenever I would be getting my period , I would feel extremely depressed. Causes of my sadness would be amplified times 1000. At times, I would slowly find myself falling into a depressive episode throughout the preceding weeks. However, when I would finally get my period, I would gradually begin to feel better. I felt as though I was giving myself emotional whiplash, and the constant mood swings I experienced were becoming very difficult to cope with. I didn’t speak up or talk to anyone about my situation until my sophomore year of college.

In the fall semester of my second year, I finally had enough. Like any young person nervous about their health, I took to the Internet. I typed in the symptoms I was having into the Google search bar. “Intense sadness during PMS,” I wrote. The first three hits on the page all had the words “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder” sprawled across the screen. I took some time to read about this disorder and then proceeded to take a few days to absorb the information. I learned that there wasn’t much you could do to “fix” PMDD -- medical recommendations included lifestyle changes, birth control, and even antidepressants. I had already been on birth control for a few months, but I wondered if the hormones caused by the pill enhanced my PMDD symptoms.

A few days later, I called my mom to confide in her. She wasn’t at all surprised to hear about my encounters with PMDD and told me that she also experienced symptoms. She revealed that PMDD is usually self-diagnosable, and suggested that I talk to my gynecologist about switching my birth control to a pill with less emotional side-effects.

Fast forward to a year later -- I have since switched to a birth control that, like my mom recommended, has far less of an impact on my mood and even helps with PMDD. Unlike the past four years of my life, I no longer have depressive episodes or irrational anger throughout the weeks leading up to my period. I still deal with pretty intense emotions while PMSing, but I’m learning to control them in a healthy way.

When I realized I had PMDD, I was met with an overwhelming amount of emotions, but overall, I was relieved. The fact that I had a reason behind my behavioral strifes was relieving in itself, but it also granted me the motivation to make some lifestyle changes to prevent such severe mood swings in the future.

There are 3 million reported cases of women struggling with PMDD in the U.S. alone. Click here to find out more about PMDD.