Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that impacts 2-10% of menstruating women. Although PMS and PMDD both have physical and emotional symptoms, PMDD causes extreme mood shifts that can disrupt your work and damage your relationships. While its cause is not completely understood, it may be due to rapid changes in serotonin and hormone levels that result from menstruation. Symptoms of PMDD may include:
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
- Feelings of depression
- Severe mood swings
- Increased anger, tension, and anxiety
- Fatigue and sleep problems
- Difficulty concentrating and disinterest in usual activities
PMDD impacts women for approximately 7 days prior to menstruation starting and tapers off once menstruation begins. During this timeframe of 7-10 days, symptoms present themselves and may impact the sufferer’s personal relationships.
Being a supportive partner
The most critical step in understanding and helping to support a partner with PMDD is to be up front in the beginning. If you have been diagnosed with PMDD, don’t keep it a secret. Be honest and direct about the symptoms you may experience, what your mood feels like, and how you’d prefer to be treated.
As a supportive partner to someone with PMDD, empathy is crucial. Put yourself in her place and try to understand what it would feel like to experience these symptoms yourself. Imagine how difficult it would be to undergo sudden bouts of depression, anxiety, and have difficulty controlling your anger and mood.
Avoid pointing out her PMDD symptoms. While you’re likely doing this from a place of love, she is more than aware of her symptoms and how they manifest themselves. However, simply being aware is not enough for her to control them. It is also imperative that you don’t poke fun at the situation or make light of her symptoms. You would never do that for someone with another serious disorder; PMDD is no different.
During the 7-10 days of the PMDD cycle, be sure to keep your usual routine and limit social activities. Sudden changes in routine or making big decisions can be difficult for PMDD sufferers to cope with. Big decision making leads to additional anxiety and worry that wrong decisions may be made. Limiting social activities may help control emotional outbursts and avoid potentially awkward situations. Additionally, bloating and discomfort doesn’t lead to feeling your best when going out socially. It can be helpful to keep a tracking calendar and use it when scheduling social activities, being sure to avoid peak PMDD times.
Since PMDD leads to an increased sense of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed, offer to help out where you can. Alleviating some of her workload will in turn, alleviate some of her symptoms. In all cases do this with a sense of love and not resentment—remember you’re assisting someone with a medical condition.
Patience is a virtue that cannot be emphasized enough while supporting someone with PMDD. Do your best to listen, don’t overreact or get frustrated, and whatever you do don’t take it personally. It is also essential to not play the blame game–each time your partner is irritable, angry, or annoyed does it may not be due to PMDD.
“Being married to someone with PMDD isn’t easy. But it isn’t hard work or by any means some kind of chore. Being married to someone with PMDD simply requires a higher level of understanding between you and your partner,” says Wilfred Mann. Having open and honest lines of communication with your partner and using the suggestions above, you can have a long-lasting and meaningful relationship with a PMDD sufferer.
If you suffer from PMDD or have a partner who does, Northwest Primary Care can help with education, resources, and treatment.