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Medically Reviewed

What Is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?

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Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) is a severe premenstrual disorder that is defined by psychiatric or somatic symptoms that develop during the late luteal phase (after ovulation) of the menstrual cycle (or 7 to 10 days before menstruation) and end after menstruation begins.1 While it may share some symptoms with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), it causes significantly more distress that negatively affects a woman’s mental health and is officially classified as a mental health disorder, whereas PMS is not. Some symptoms common to PDD and PMS might include:2Woman in pain holding stomach

  • Headaches.
  • Irritability.
  • Sleep disruptions.
  • Tiredness.
  • Water retention or bloating.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Digestive concerns.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • General discomfort.
  • Serious mood fluctuations or impairment (e.g., depression, anxiety).

If these symptoms impair a woman’s daily activities and ability to function normally, then a diagnosis of PDD may be considered. Because it’s a relatively new diagnosable disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), some people may be skeptical if the disorder is real.3 So, in this article, we’ll explore in greater detail:

  • What PDD is.
  • Who is most susceptible to it.
  • How to treat it.

What Are the Symptoms?

Premenstrual disorders affect as many as 40% of women, however only 3–8% experience symptoms that negatively affect their everyday routines or rise to the level of a PDD diagnosis.

The criteria for symptoms to meet a diagnosis of PDD are:5

Criteria A:

The DSM-5 specifies that a person must have at least 5 of the symptoms listed in Criteria B and C—with at least 1 from each category—in the week preceding menstruation, with improvement seen a few days after the first day of the woman’s period and nearly completely ending about a week later.

Criteria B:

  • Significant mood swings: increased sensitivity to rejection, sudden onset of feeling sad or tearful.
  • Excessive irritability or anger.
  • More interpersonal conflicts than normal.
  • Significant depressed mood or hopeless feelings.
  • Marked anxiety or tension.
  • Constantly feeling on edge.

Criteria C:

  • Hypersomnia.
  • Insomnia.
  • Lethargy.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Increased fatigability.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Decreased interest in daily activities (work, social outings, school, etc.).
  • Change in appetite (overeating or craving something specific).
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control.
  • Physical symptoms: feeling bloated, breast tenderness or swelling, joint or muscle pain, weight gain.

Unhappy isolated woman at homeThese symptoms must also be present in the majority of your menstrual cycles over the past year and significantly impair or interfere with daily activities and social relationships.5 Also, the symptoms cannot be attributed to substance use, other medications or medical illness, or be an exacerbation of another disorder (e.g., panic disorder, major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, or a personality disorder).1

Who Is Most Susceptible?

It is not completely certain what the exact cause of PDD is, but a few studies have named 5 contributing factors:6

In addition, the following risk factors increased the likelihood of people developing PDD in a separate 2010 study:7

If you or a loved one have PDD, there are several options for treating it.

Getting the Necessary TreatmentMeeting with a doctor

Treatment of PDD focuses on relieving both the physical and psychiatric symptoms associated with the disorder
through options like hormonal treatment, psychiatric medication, or alternative approaches. Research is constantly being conducted for new treatment options, and several types of medications have so far been deemed appropriate to treat PDD, including:1

Other, non-pharmacologic treatments have proven effective in some women, though further research needs to be conducted to support some of them.1,4

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Scot Thomas
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Thomas received his medical degree from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. During his medical studies, Dr. Thomas saw firsthand the multitude of lives impacted by struggles with substance abuse and addiction, motivating him to seek a clinical psychiatry preceptorship at the San Diego VA Hospital’s Inpatient Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program. In his post-graduate clinical work, Dr. Thomas later applied the tenets he learned to help guide his therapeutic approach with many patients in need of substance treatment. In his current capacity as Senior Medical Editor for American Addiction Centers, Dr. Thomas, works to provide accurate, authoritative information to those seeking help for substance abuse and behavioral health issues.
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