27 June 2010

How much very severe PMS or PMDD used to affect me

Several years ago, I used to get excruciatingly bad PMS symptoms that could be described to be PMDD (which many experts do not believe exists and I agree).

I used to feel like I had a band of emotional pressure in my head, which would make me want to scream out loud - the pressure felt almost physical it was that bad. I just felt so awful and the intensity of the mood swings and emotions I experienced, were so terrible mostly because they were completely uncontrollable. I was so angry, my mood was totally volatile, I cried at the drop of a hat and felt very offended by anything anyone said to me, no matter how innocuous it was. I couldn't think properly, I couldn't sleep properly, felt very anxious and jittery, I was crying a lot, I felt resentful and angry at everyone and everything - I was very emotionally unbalanced. My mind seemed my worst enemy, with the intense negative emotions coming to a crazy crescendo just on the last day prior to menstruation. And when my periods arrived, it seemed the pressure valve inside my head was suddenly released and my brain could function normally again. I would no longer feel emotionally volatile once the bleeding started.

I went to see a doctor about it (my regular doctor wasn't available, so I saw a substitute) and he recommended I take the contraceptive pill all month long, for about one year, so that I didn't have any periods at all, thinking that would stop my very severe PMS symptoms! Total rubbish advice.  Artificially suppressing menstruation in that way is not healthy for the body and of course I did not take his advice.

When I was able to see my doctor, he recommended I see a gynaecologist to get further advice. The gynaecologist recommended I go on the contraceptive pill with a high level of oestrogen and progesterone. She also recommended anti-depressants and gave me a script for some to take in the two weeks prior to menstruation, but if I couldn't remember, then just to take it all month.

Again, rubbish advice!

I decided to do some research to find out exactly what causes PMS and how I could combat it to feel better again. I discovered that only with perseverance and hard work, I could reduce the symptoms and feel like a normal person. I used certain supplement, better diet choices, more exercise, massage and meditation, which when combined did greatly assist me. I also visited a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who provided some acupuncture and that was a catalyst for positive changes.

Let me re-iterate:

PMDD is not a mental disorder and some experts are finally challenging its classification as a mental disorder when it is clearly tied into the menstrual cycle. If the symptoms occurred all month at the same level, then it would give some indication that it may be a mood disorder, but since it does not, it is clear that it is not.

There are alternatives to taking anti-depressants and the contraceptive pill, which are viable and better for your health overall.

PMDD is not a mental disorder - it is just severe PMS

Vincent Van Gogh - Sorrow
 The condition PMDD (pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder) is a type of PMS which is much worse than regular PMS symptoms, especially in terms of the emotional symptoms.

According to a peer reviewed article reprinted by the American Academy of Physicians, they describe PMDD as:

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. (DSM-IV), PMDD is classified as “depressive disorder not otherwise specified” and emphasizes emotional and cognitive-behavioral symptoms.2  At least five of the 11 specified symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of PMDD (Table 1).1  These symptoms should be limited to the luteal phase and should not represent amplification of preexisting depression, anxiety, or personality disorder. In addition, they must be confirmed prospectively by daily rating for at least two consecutive menstrual cycles. A symptom-free period during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle is essential in differentiating PMDD from preexisting anxiety and mood disorders.

This means, PMDD has been given status as a serious mental disorder in the vein of major depression and bipolar disorder and in fact, some scientists believe that some women who experience PMDD are depressed, which is why anti-depressants are prescribed.

There are a number of experts who find fault with this diagnosis of PMDD as a mental disorder, notwithstanding that mental disorders have never been proved to exist (other than major mental illness) and that anti-depressants have been shown to do nothing for people with mild to moderate depression.

The problem as I see it with classifying PMDD as a mental disorder, is that it isnt. It is due to a number of factors being misaligned in the body (nutritional deficiencies, too much stress, no exercise, bad circulation) and these factors together can contribute to worsening of PMDD, yet when these issues are sorted out, the PMDD is completely reduced to manageable levels.

A recent study showed that 20% of women who did the diagnostic survey, met the criteria for PMDD, whereas 4.1% of men met the criteria for PMDD too. The authors of the study then suggested:
Therefore, these data suggest that PMDD may not be a premenstrual disorder per se. PMDD may instead reflect general cyclical changes in mood, and in women sometimes these changes occur during or near menstruation.
A number of other studies have criticised the assessment that PMDD is severe mental disorder, when it is clearly not.

If you have severe PMS-like symptoms that could be thought to be PMDD, check out my articles about what needs to be done and work with your natural health care practitioner to find a better way to manage your symptoms. You are not alone and you do not have to suffer with this problem. Just check with your doctor to make sure there is no underlying disorder (a real one).

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1994:715–8.
  2. Bhatia SC and Bhatia S.  Diagnosis and Treatment of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Oct 1;66(7):1239-1249.  Accessed 27 June 2010
  3. Callaghana GM, Chacona C, Colesa C, Bottsa J, Larawaya S. An Empirical Evaluation of the Diagnostic Criteria for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Problems with Sex Specificity and Validity. Women & Therapy, Volume 32, Issue 1 January 2009 , pages 1 - 21 
  4. Daw, J. Is PMDD Real? Monitor on Psychology, October 2002, Vol 33, No. 9 . Accessed 27 June 2010
  5. Kissling, E. Women, Men and PMDD. Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, 15 October 2009.  Accessed 27 June 2010
  6. Nash H, Chrisler JC. IS A LITTLE (PSYCHIATRIC) KNOWLEDGE A DANGEROUS THING? Psychology of Women Quarterly, Volume 21 Issue 2, Pages 315 - 322

Major and unrelenting stress can make PMS much worse

When you have a lot of stress in your life, when it's unrelenting and of a major kind and it is something that is rather beyond your control, this can be a major contributing factor in worse PMS symptoms so that they resemble PMDD, which is the more severe form of PMS.

For the last few months, I have been under a great deal of stress due to a very uncomfortable situation that I have been exposed to. I am trying really hard to extricate myself, but in the meantime, it means that the stress, frustration, anger and other negative emotions that I have been feeling, are contributing to my more exaggerated PMS symptoms this month, which I haven't felt in a very long time.

The one consolation I can give myself is that because I know any intense emotions I get are due to PMS, so this means I can use my little mind trick, where I tell myself, "It's only PMS. It's not real," and this brings my feelings back down to a more normal level pretty quickly.

But, as I am not yet right in the day or two before I menstruate, it still mean it could get much worse, but I hope not. I have done a lot of hard work to get my body to react more normally during PMS over the past few years and I never want to have those intense and crazy emotions that I used to get in the past, where I felt like my head felt like it had this intense pressure inside that I couldn't seem to release and was seemingly coming from nowhere. It was almost like I was going insane with all these intense, crazy emotions that had nothing to do with me, for 2-3 days almost every month and it was the most awful feeling as I could not control it.

Now, after several years of eating properly, exercising, doing meditation, taking certain supplements and massaging my body regularly, I don't feel that way any more. Yep, all without any medication, which was recommended to me, but I declined, preferring to do it the natural way, as I wholeheartedly believe the body can heal itself if you provide the right food, supplements and tools.

Just goes to show, how even if you implement everything properly, except in one area (not reducing stress) it can have a debilitating effect on your health and some of us are more susceptible than others.

PMS symptoms are worse this month

Day 26 of my cycle

Today is day 26 of my cycle, which means I should get my periods in about two days or slightly later than that. Hopefully it will not be too much longer, because I can really feel the PMS more strongly this month than in a long time.

I felt very hungry today, which is normal for me during the last week before I get my periods. I need to eat it seems every few hours and if I don't eat properly, my blood sugar levels go down too much and I feel dizzy and light headed, as well as anxious and jittery. Once I eat, all of that goes away and I feel calm again.

I also have an extremely sweet tooth during PMS, when I crave and eat, quite a bit of sweet food. About the only sweet thing I eat is chocolate. I buy organic or European, so it means it has a low glycemic index (GI) and helps with the blood sugar level problems.

I had some organic chicken soup with organic chicken wings earlier and afterward I felt really satisfied with the meal. I added a little balsamic vinegar to it, as I was craving something sour. It was absolutely delicious. But you know, it's been a few hours and I am hungry again. It's almost like I haven't eaten anything even though I have! That is part of how PMS affects me in terms of my blood sugar levels and hunger levels.

The level of PMS symptoms I have right is just like what I used to have a few years ago - really severe, really bad and more like PMDD - and it's all because of the major stress in my life, which has not yet been removed. It has been mediated a little, but not removed and that is the priority for me.

I think my last post may have been too much for some people, because I described some of my symptoms quite descriptively. I do so, because I know it helps other girls/women know that they are not alone in their suffering. It was about fluid retention in my breasts and nipples - damn annoying that it even happened this month (the bloating and pain, that is)!