As someone who has been consistently open and honest with friends and family about female health (periods, contraception, sexual well-being etc) it was a shock to discover a disorder that I, and a lot of people around me had never heard of, which actually affects 1 in 20 women.
PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is a hormone-based mood disorder that affects people both physically and emotionally, causing a multitude of different symptoms during the luteal phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle, the stage when progesterone levels are at their lowest.
Mood swings, lack of energy, joint or muscle pain, anxiety and sleep problems are just a few of the symptoms described by women who suffer from PMDD, although these can vary depending on the individual, ranging from mild to life-altering.
Vickie Walsh from Whitley Bay describes first suffering from the disorder when she was just fifteen years old and throughout her time dealing with PMDD, has suffered many low moments.
Vickie says: “I would lose my confidence and the ability to complete tasks for my job day to day, constantly needing reassurance from others. I was irritable and couldn’t resolve conflicts with people close to me. I often had serious negative thoughts about my life.”
Vickie is concerned that so many women will currently be in the dark about why they feel this way every month and she is keen to raise more awareness around PMDD.
PMDD has been continuously overlooked by health professionals for years, causing struggling women to fight for advice from doctors, knowing their problems are more than PMS, an assumption often made.
Premenstrual syndrome affects 75% of women at some point during their cycle, however, the symptoms for PMDD are much more intense, often causing unknown sufferers to take it upon themselves to research for potential answers online.
As more people learn and navigate through what PMDD is and how it affects women individually, it is becoming more and more obvious that the brain and the uterus have always been directly connected and mental health needs to be taken more seriously when talking about the menstrual cycle and menstrual health.
Through her own research online, Vickie has found support groups online that have grown in member count massively since she first discovered them.
She explains: “A PMDD Facebook group four years into my journey had three thousand members and now has over nine thousand. Sufferers can share their PMDD struggles, what they do to ease the symptoms and offer suggestions on how to seek help. There are numerous videos on YouTube and accounts on Instagram where women are calling for further awareness to be raised, creating a space so that sufferers don’t feel alone.”
How can PMDD be treated? The answer is that there are various options available, including different types of medication, acupuncture, CBT and in some extreme cases, surgery.
Vickie continues: “After years of suffering and trying multiple options, I was put into a chemical menopause, which has relieved me from the majority of my PMDD symptoms”.
Vickie’s experience proves that every individual is different and will react to treatment in different ways and there is not one solution that will work for every sufferer.
Through Vickie’s courage in speaking out about her own experience with PMDD, we can only hope that other sufferers will not feel alone and will have the confidence to seek advice and support, advocating along the way that PMDD is real and needs to be acknowledged by medical professionals and wider society.
For more information about PMDD and support groups, visit:
iapmd.org – Support, information and resources for women with PMDD.
viciouscyclepmdd.com – Helping to make PMDD visible.
Facebook – UK PMDD support