I’ve always struggled with PMS. It’s caused me to be angry, argumentative and to sabotage my business several times. I honestly had started to believe I was crazy – and then I learned about PMDD and suddenly my hormonal outbursts made a lot more sense.
What is PMDD?
PMDD stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. You can think of it like PMS – but on steroids. It’s not just getting a little bit snappy with your other half because they’ve left their socks on the floor (again!). It’s flying into a blind rage over a minor inconvenience and seriously considering ending the relationship because of it.
According to the NHS website “Symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS but are much more intense and can have a much greater negative impact on your daily activities and quality of life. Symptoms can include:
- physical symptoms such as cramps, headaches and joint and muscle pain
- behavioural symptoms such as binge eating and problems sleeping
- mental and emotional symptoms, such as feeling very anxious, angry, depressed or, in some cases, even suicidal.”
For me, the biggest way I notice PMDD show up is in the mental and emotional symptoms. Thankfully I have never experienced any suicidal feelings when I’m premenstrual – but the anxiety, depression and anger are definitely symptoms I can relate to.
I am happy to report that, while I still very much feel these emotions, my moods have been more stable since I started tracking my cycle. Tracking my cycle has allowed me to understand how I’m likely to be feeling at any given time and to put strategies in place to eliminate unnecessary stress.
Why am I so angry?
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. I can remember a time when I would argue with my husband for absolutely no reason. I would be so full of rage – and one tiny inconvenience would be enough to tip me over the edge.
He would not understand why I was creating such a fuss over something so small – like the time I absolutely lost it because I was ready to go to the supermarket and he wasn’t (even though I hadn’t even told him we were going to the supermarket). And, honestly, I wouldn’t understand this rage either. But I felt absolutely incapable of controlling it.
Looking back now, I can see that I was operating my entire life on high stress levels. This meant that when I hit PMS territory – I was absolutely unable to cope.
Is premenstrual anxiety a thing?
Anger is just one way my PMDD can present. Another which shows up frequently is anxiety. I’ve always suffered with anxiety for as long as I can remember – but give me a healthy dose of premenstrual hormones and I’m having panic attacks over scenarios that don’t even exist.
For instance, I once spent my entire premenstrual phase in a constant state of panic because I thought my house was going to fall down. Did I have any evidence to suggest this was a possibility? No. But the crushing feeling of dread in my chest lasted for days.
This is something I still experience regularly. Sudden pangs of anxiety and panic will wash over me – often for no reason at all.
Imposter Syndrome & Self Sabotage
One thing that differentiates PMS from PMDD is the impact its has on your daily life. With PMS, the moods and emotions you might feel can be annoying – but generally they don’t take over your life. With PMDD you might find yourself in a position of sabotaging your relationships or career.
This is something I’ve experienced. While I’ve been able to (somehow) maintain my marriage – it’s always been my career that’s taken a battering when my PMDD shows up. The biggest reason for that is imposter syndrome – an intense feeling that you’re not good enough and that you’re “faking it”. It’s a fear that you’re going to get called out as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
For me, the imposter syndrome is so intense that I have derailed my business several times. I have totally given up on everything I’ve worked for. I’d deleted my entire catalogue of resources and told myself “this just isn’t for me”.
Of course, that was a lie. I was just so afraid of making a mistake that I’d convinced myself that it was better to not even try. And so, when I would move on to something new – it just didn’t feel right. This would lead to me feeling absolutely miserable and not really understanding why.
Dealing with PMDD
I’ve come to realise that my premenstrual phase is really good at showing me where the “sore spots” are in my life. Anytime I feel anxious or angry or miserable – it’s usually because something in my life isn’t working.
By learning about my cycle, and tracking it closely, I’ve come to be able to predict my PMDD moods before they show up. This means I can put strategies in place to keep myself in check.
While I am a massive advocate for menstrual cycle awareness, I know there are times when I have needed more immediate help. If you are suffering with low mood and poor emotional wellbeing – get in touch with your doctor. There is no shame in asking for help if you are struggling to cope.