Around the same time each month, Jo would feel it rearing up inside her. The depression. The exhaustion. The blind rage.
“I would become so angry that I would start a fight with my partner. Absolutely anything would set me off,” the 46-year-old told Mamamia‘s daily news podcast, The Quicky.
“I’d get rageful, so I would throw things… One point, which I feel completely shameful about, [I was] actually taking it out on my partner, physically. And that really scared me.”
It continued, month after month, for more than two decades, and ultimately cost Jo her 13-year marriage and a subsequent two-year relationship. Until she, finally, received a diagnosis: Premenstrual Dysphoria Disorder (or PMDD).
What is PMDD?
Added to the World Health Organisation’s list of diseases in May 2019, PMDD is a severe mood condition that occurs in the lead up to a period.
While its far-more-common cousin, PMS, will typically cause mild irritability, PMDD is so debilitating that it’s estimated 30 per cent of sufferers attempt suicide.
Jo certainly contemplated taking her life. Over the past five to ten years, she was hospitalised six times, as she struggled with suicidal thoughts and self-harm: “I think it was more just to escape the pain, you know”.
For Jo’s full story, listen to The Quicky.
Roughly eight per cent of women suffer from PMDD. Although, it’s believed the true figure is likely much higher.
Many women have their symptoms dismissed as bad PMS or are misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder. In fact, in Australia, it takes an average of 12 years for a PMDD sufferer to receive the right diagnosis.
After all, there’s no test for PMDD. Instead, a clinician must rely on the type and timing of the patient’s symptoms.
What are the symptoms of PMDD, and what causes it?
Speaking to The Quicky, Dr. Andrea Chisholm, an obstetrics gynaecologist and former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, said that PMDD symptoms present only in the second half of the woman’s menstrual cycle — between ovulation and her next period — and will ease within a day or two once she begins to bleed.
“The predominant symptoms are of a mood component. So things like sadness and despair, tension and anxiety, significant mood swings, perhaps panic attacks and frequent crying. There can even be thoughts of suicide,” Dr. Chisholm said. “There’s often irritability and anger that can affect relationships, both personal and at work. You can feel very tired and low energy, you can have significant trouble sleeping, feel like you’re out of control, have trouble concentrating or staying focused.”