We all know what PMS is. It’s the butt of jokes and the bane of many women’s’ existence. But sometimes PMS isn’t really PMS at all.
It’s those typical symptoms that women can sometimes get before their period. We all know, the mood swings, the cravings, the bloating! For some women it can be on the mild side, with slight cramps and an indulgence or two in ice cream, or nothing at all(lucky!) For some, it’s on the other end and they may experience debilitating stomach pains, bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, bowel changes, a whole list of very not fun stuff. I think most women who do experience PMS probably fall in the middle. I know I did. I’d be moody for a few days, like any typical teenager, bloat a bit, crave some ice cream and my breasts would ache a bit. Despite the hope though, it never meant they were growing. Dang it.
But as I got older, things changed. I’m not sure when it started but there were such severe symptoms that I kept thinking I was pregnant over and over again. After months of torture of am I or am I not, my husband and I agreed that there was something wrong. The poor guy looked braced for an explosion at all times and he could barely look me in the face anymore. I started looking into it and one day I found a video about PMDD(Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). It listed off 11 major symptoms that can accompany PMDD, and if you’ve got 5 or more, you’ve got it. I checked off all 11 easily.
But… how? How could I be suffering from a disorder this debilitating when I didn’t even know it existed? I felt betrayed, like this was something that should have been mentioned in health class along with PMS. “Sorry girls, PMS is a thing, but it can be worse!” A heads up would have been nice. But when I started talking about it, I discovered that most of the people around me hadn’t ever heard of it either, and that’s including a few doctors.
So, how do you know when your PMS isn’t just PMS anymore? The best thing would be to start tracking your symptoms, and pay attention to these things:
- Increase in appetite
- Food cravings
- Breast tenderness
- Joint/muscle pain
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating(brain fog)
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Random bouts of crying
- Feeling out of control
- Rage/Extreme Irritability
- Feeling disconnected with your life
- Less interest in relationships/hobbies
- Feeling numb
- Suicidal thoughts/tendencies
- Symptoms severe enough to interfere with life/work
If you need a good monthly tracker, I highly recommend the new one from ME vs PMDD. It’s free and created specifically for us who struggle with PMDD. You can also check out the C-PASS scoring system to check off whatever applies to you. I included a few more things here than are mentioned in the 5-DSM, but things that those suffering may also struggle with.
If you think that you may have PMDD, check out Gia Allemand Foundation to learn more and find resources for help. My recommendation would be to find a gynecological specialist who specializes in PMDD, a psychiatrist who specializes in women’s health, or a psychologist specializing in women’s health. Ask if the doctor is experienced in treating PMDD before booking an appointment. And be warned, they aren’t that easy to find.
Read about my bad experience with a “specialist” here.
But most importantly, if you think you might be struggling with this, know that you are not alone. What you’re feeling is real and valid and not your fault, and there is help out there. There are diets and herbs and medications that can help, even surgeries to try if you exhaust all other options. But better, there are some amazing women around to talk to. They can be found on Facebook and Twitter, ready and willing to answer any questions or commiserate with you. We may be suffering from something horrible but we are worth the effort and we will thrive.
Click here for more resources and to connect to women fighting this together.