Endearing, funny, confusing, or mundane, everyone’s got a period story. To celebrate, Kt is launching #periodovershare, a social impact campaign on Instagram and TikTok in which we ask our community to open up about their period experiences in an effort to fight against the stigma attached to openly discussing menstruation. For each story tagged with the #periodovershare hashtag through May 2023, we’ll donate a reusable period product to communities in need in partnership with period.org, with a focus on BIPOC and LBGTQ+ youth.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a health condition related to premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS. However, it is problematic to confuse PMDD with PMS because PMDD is a serious psychological and physiological condition that mustn’t be ignored.
How does PMDD present itself? Typically with significant irritation, anxiety, or even panic one to two weeks before your period arrives. Symptoms typically subside two to three days after your menstruation begins. The disorder differs from PMS, which is marked by slight moodiness and discomfort that can be managed, whereas PMDD significantly impacts the life of the person who has it.
Here are some common symptoms of PMDD
As with most menstrual things, researchers are still unsure exactly what causes PMDD or PMS. Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle could be a factor. Serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain, may potentially play a role in PMDD. Throughout the menstrual cycle serotonin levels rise and fall. Some menstruators may be more affected by these changes than others.
According to Women’s Health, up to 5% of menstruators suffer from PMDD. Many of which also suffer from anxiety or depression.
I am one of those 5% and here is my experience as a woman with PMDD.
How PMDD shows up for me
Shortly before my first period arrived, I experienced ongoing excruciating pain. I had panic attacks that turned into manic episodes, frequent headaches, and back acne. Once I started my first bleed, menstrual cramps quickly followed. I had never imagined that I would experience such difficult and prolonged pain. For a week straight I would lay in bed crying. It was truly awful.
If this is relatable for you, you’re not alone. Keep reading.
These menstrual meltdowns went on for years to come. When I was 15 I was incorrectly diagnosed as bipolar. This is because PMDD has very similar mood effects as bipolar disorder. The difference, however, is that these manic episodes would correspond with my menstrual cycle. I was prescribed medication that ended up being very harmful.
The combination of medication for bipolar and birth control for cramps threw my hormones so off balance that I lactated for 3 months at age 15 (and no, therewas no way I was pregnant). Unfortunately, no one believed me, and I was humiliated by the medical system. When it was finally proved that I was not pregnant, I was given support to stop lactating. It was a painful and embarrassing 3 months of hiding in the bathroom at school and pumping my breasts when I could. No 15 year old should ever have to experience what I did.
After a grueling process of finding the right medical concoction for my needs, things got easier. Not better, just easier. I was on birth control pills for 4 years until I was 19. During this time, I was still struggling with heavy period flows and chronic depression. But when I turned 21 I made the terrifying decision to get a copper IUD. It did nothing to support my symptoms and even made my pain worse, landing me back in the hospital once again.
After the failed attempt with the copper IUD, my doctors began to help me identify the underlying cause of these episodes. I was sent to a psychiatrist who FINALLY diagnosed me with PMDD, changing my life once again—but this time for the better.
The doctors prescribed me a hormonal IUD, which has helped immensely! My manic episodes have stopped and I have witnessed huge changes in my self-regulation and mood.
These are some of the things that helped my PMDD the most:
What helped me won’t necessarily help you, we’re all different (and I’m not a doctor). But what I do recommend is keeping track of the things that do help. That way when you’re experiencing hard times you can pull out your list of ways to soothe yourself.
If you are struggling with your periods in any way, it is so important that you seek medical support. You deserve pain-free menstruation! I know first hand that it is intimidating, but educating yourself on your body's needs is vital. Every body bleeds differently, so remember, your experience is equally valid.
Good luck, fellow menstruators!
If you’d like to get involved, share your own #periodovershare on Instagram or TikTok today.
To download the free period guide in Canada, click here.