At risk of telling readers of my blog tmi...
Well, here goes.
I'm in the midst of "that time" again. For me, about 10-14 days before my period comes, I experience what I classify as "hell of the mind." For as long as I can remember, this time has been completely overwhelming to me in a very, very negative way. When I was younger, I would find myself extremely depressed/lonely/miserable to the point that I didn't understand why I was alive or why I should keep going. The mood now manifests itself as extreme irritability/depression/anxiety (and poor Scott definetely gets the brunt of it. After I start feeling better, I always am amazed by his patience with me during that "rocky" time of our lives together). It is such a weird feeling and I'm sure anyone who has experienced any sort of depression can agree with me that it just doesn't feel like I'm "me" during that time. I'm usually upbeat and happy but during those days, I feel like I enter a pitch-black cave. I've experienced these mood changes for a very, very long time. Just last year I finally mustered the courage to talk to my doctor about it after being on the brink of tears for days at a time once a month for years and years. He quickly diagnosed me with PMDD and the diagnosis, in my opinion, couldn't be more fitting.
PMDD symptoms begin sometime after the middle of a monthly cycle (after ovulation), usually get worse during the week before menses, and then usually disappear within a few days of the start of menses. The symptoms follow this pattern every month or almost every month.
Here are the symptoms that make up the diagnosis of PMDD. All of the symptoms do not need to be present, and they may vary from month to month. At least 5 are required to make the diagnosis, including at least one of the first four.*
Very depressed mood, feeling hopeless
Marked anxiety, tension, edginess
Sudden mood shifts (crying easily, extreme sensitivity)
Persistent, marked irritability, anger, increased conflicts
Loss of interest in usual activities (work, school, socializing, etc.)
Difficulty concentrating and staying focused
Fatigue, tiredness, loss of energy
Marked appetite change, overeating, food cravings
Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or sleeping too much
Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
Physical symptoms such as weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness or swelling, headache, and muscle or joint aches and pains
*Adapted from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, 2000, with permission from the American Psychiatric Association
PMDD symptoms are not always present. Symptoms disappear during or by the end of menses, and return at about the same time during following cycles. If symptoms are present every day, then they are unlikely to be due to PMDD.
To be considered PMDD, symptoms must be severe enough to really disrupt a woman's life -- interfere with work, school, social activities or interpersonal relationships
I am so glad that I talked to my doctor about it and started taking medication for it (zoloft, which has done wonders). Scott will tell you that I still freak out every month because I don't want to take the medication (even though I know it will help me). I grew up in a family that didn't totally understand mental illness and even though psychology was my college major and I firmly believe that mental illness is caused (not always) by a chemical imbalance, I still find it hard to take medication because of the stigma associated with doing so. So I often just try to "make it through" on my own, but I always "fail" in doing so. I reach the point where I'm totally overwhelmed which is when I realize that my body and brain desperately need chemical stabilization. I take zoloft...and I feel immensely better. The other "saving grace" in my opinion is that I don't have to take the medication every day, just during the period when the mood change is taking place. I hate that this is a battle I have to fight, but I'm thankful that I only experience it once a month for a few days rather than on a daily basis. I'm thankful that modern medicene has come a long way and can treat me when I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Just thought I would share my run-in with this disorder.