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PMDD: A Severe Form of PMS

What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, refers to the changes in a woman's mood along with certain physical symptoms relating to her menstrual cycle that are significant enough to affect her quality of life.

Most experts agree that while PMS can cause significant distress, some women seem to have even more severe cyclical symptoms that may actually lead to physical or mental loss of function. These women are considered to suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), an unusually severe form of PMS.

The symptoms of PMDD generally begin the week before menstruation and end a few days after menstruation has begun. Women with PMDD may experience drastic mood swings, anger, depression, irritability, tension, sleep and appetite changes, fatigue, and physical problems such as pain or bloating. PMDD affects an estimated 3% to 8% of women of reproductive age.

The cause of PMDD (and PMS) is not certain but appears related to hormonal changes that accompany the menstrual cycle. Some evidence suggests a connection between PMDD and the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (a chemical in the body that helps the brain transmit information).

PMDD seems to be more common in women who have experienced depression. And conversely, a woman with PMDD is at an increased risk for the development of depression.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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