Wednesday, March 8, 2006


Two weeks ago, I went to the doctor after being sick for five days with what I thought might be food poisoning. While there, I decided to ask the doctor about a problem I've been having for some time. For over a year, I've been experiencing extreme anxiety and severe mood swings the week prior to getting my period. The last couple of months, I've noticed it starting around the time I ovulate and continuing until I get my period. Additionally, I've also felt confused and unable to focus on anything. I wrote it off to PMS and tried to battle it the best I could. My mother-in-law witnessed one of my meltdowns last month and suggested I talk to my doctor. So I did. Turns out, I have an extreme form of PMS called PMMD. It affects between 2-9% of all women of reproductive age (no one knows for sure because they can't even agree on whether or not it's a "real" condition.).

Unfortunately, the treatments are birth control pills, progesterone therapy, or SSRIs -- Prozac or Zoloft. None of those are acceptable options to me. So, I've been researching the issue and have found that some women respond really well to calcium supplements, increased Omega-3, and B vitamins. I'm trying a combination of the three and trying to get more exercise to see if any of it helps. If not, I don't know what I'll do.

Sadly, the condition is referenced in the DSM-IV, the handbook of mental disorders put together by the American Psychiatric Association. Rather than treating it as a naturally occurring medical condition, natural (though extreme) hormone surges are being treated as a mental disorder. Another way to label women as crazy instead of legitimizing their experiences and giving them the support they need. Men experience similar hormonal surges and cycles, but no one labels them crazy.

All that said, I just want to feel better. I want to find a way to control the hormones without putting anything too harsh into my body. I definitely think diet and lifestyle are the way to go.

1 comment:

A. said...

In the mid 80s to the late 90s, I followed a restricted diet in order to help my severe PMS (that was before they started calling it PMDD). In addition to taking large doses of vitamins B6 and E, I eliminated all caffeine and all refined sugars. I also cut back on salt, even to going to a low-sodium diet at one point. The idea behind the low salt intake is that one often bloats up to 5 lbs. prior to your period with PMDD and if you think about it, it only makes sense that you'd be more than a little grumpy if you had to carry around a bag of flour all the time. Going to a low or no sugar diet helps with mood swings. Having no caffeine in your system helps you rest better. Anyway, I don't want to get too preachy with the advice; heck, I don't even know if experts/doctors are saying the same things these days, as that was the cutting edge wisdom when I was a teenager and just beginning to be diagnosed. I did go through a lot of experiments at Duke Medical Center when I was in college in the late 80s as there was a medical team there who was researching PMS/PMDD quite in depth at that time. Good luck. It isn't an easy thing to live with, but I did find that I could control at least the extreme nature of it with diet and exercise.