Three years ago I was diagnosed with PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) — it's sort of like PMS on overdrive, except way worse. Before the diagnosis I was embarrassed at how unstable I felt as my period approached, especially when all of my girlfriends seemed to be handling their PMS symptoms in a manageable way.
My menstrual cycles were always preceded by feelings of severe depression, crying bouts, anxiety, fatigue, and extreme back pain that would disappear the day my period started. I decided that I could no longer live like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and had a conversation with my doctor. To my relief she confirmed that what I was going through was much more severe than PMS.
For those of you who might be suffering with PMDD, here are some tips I've learned from my doctor over the years to make life more bearable. You'll want to do everything on this list during the two weeks leading up to your period.
To see my tips,
- Keep a rigorous calendar of your cycle so you can anticipate when your symptoms will start. Knowing this time frame helps calm anxiety and allows you to take the necessary precautions to offset PMDD. It's also helpful to let those close to you anticipate these dates since they can help offer extra support during this time.
- Exercise has been shown to help decrease symptoms of PMDD — go on more walks or bike rides leading up to your menstrual cycle.
- Uncontrollable cravings and fatigue are signs of PMDD and can be offset by having a balanced diet of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adjust your diet by reducing caffeine, salt, refined sugars, and high carb meals.
- Take the herbal remedies chasteberry and L-tryptophan. In clinical trials, both have shown to help decrease the emotional effects of PMDD.
If these tips don't improve your PMDD, talk to your doctor about other options. I've also had great success taking Yaz, the only birth control pill approved to treat PMDD, but some health experts are not convinced that Yaz is as safe as it claims to be.
Many women have symptoms so severe that they go on short cycles of antidepressants each month or take oral contraceptives to help with hormone regulation.