While at first glance it may seem like it’s all in a woman’s head, PMDD has serious consequences and is more common than you may think.

There are many cultural stereotypes around women being labeled “hormonal” that do not acknowledge or address the real effect hormones can have on women’s mental health. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a condition that can severely impact a woman’s life with severe, debilitating physical and emotional symptoms that present before a woman’s period and end when her menses begins. Learning the facts about PMDD can help dispel prevailing myths and misconceptions about both PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) and PMDD. When the public gains a greater understanding of PMDD and its co-occurring conditions, we can be better advocate for proper treatment and for hormonal health. Here are six common myths about PMDD. 

1. Myth: PMDD isn’t real.

Fact: PMDD is definitely real. 

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder occurs when cyclical mood and behavior issues result from hormone fluctuations that affect a person’s daily functioning and interpersonal relationships. These mood symptoms may occur in addition to physical symptoms such as cramping and bloating. Some women may wait to seek help and may be misdiagnosed with other conditions, such as bipolar disorder or depression, before receiving a PMDD diagnosis. PMDD is listed in the DSM-V as a mental health condition and needs to be treated accordingly. 

2. Myth: PMDD is the same as PMS.

Fact: PMS and PMDD are different. 

While they may share some common physical and emotional characteristics, PMDD symptoms have different consequences for women vs PMS. Someone with PMS may feel more irritable or emotional than she would throughout other parts of her cycle, but the striking difference in PMS vs PMDD is the severity of these emotional symptoms. The difference between PMS and PMDD is that while a woman with PMS can continue to function, someone with PMDD has emotional and behavioral symptoms that affect her daily functioning. 

3. Myth: It’s all in your head.

Fact: There are physical symptoms to PMDD. 

Like any hormonal issue, the mood fluctuations that occur with PMDD are a result of physical changes that occur when hormone levels change throughout a woman’s cycle. PMDD symptoms include:

  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or despair
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Crying often and mood swings
  • Tiredness, low energy, lack of interest
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Binge eating or severe cravings

PMDD also includes physical symptoms such as:

  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness/enlargement
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and joint pain

4. Myth: PMDD is rare.

Fact: PMDD is relatively common. 

Since all menstruating women experience hormone fluctuations, all women are at risk for PMS and PMDD. PMDD statistics reveal that a relatively large number of women live with this condition. A startling 30-70% percent of women experience premenstrual syndrome, but the prevalence of PMDD among women is around 5%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

5. Myth: PMDD isn’t very serious.

Fact: PMDD can cause significant suffering.

As a hormonal issue, PMDD is plagued by the notion that the problem is all in the person’s head, but severe PMDD can profoundly interfere with someone’s quality of life. PMDD is often associated with anxiety, severe depression, and seasonal affective disorder. For women who suffer from PMDD, suicidal thoughts are a significant risk; 15% of women with PMDD attempt suicide in their lifetime. 

6. Myth: PMDD is just something women have to live with.

Fact: PMDD is treatable. 

PMDD treatment is available and there are several different PMDD treatment options that can be utilized. Lifestyle changes like a healthy diet and exercise routine combined with cognitive behavioral therapy are often used to treat PMDD. Some women with PMDD will have some success with pharmaceutical medications such as antidepressants

Getting help for PMDD may also necessitate treatment for other conditions, as it can be associated with a host of co-occurring disorders, including substance abuse, depression, and anxiety disorders. To reduce the risk of depression leading to suicide in women with PMDD, getting treatment is imperative. 

If you or a loved one is suffering from PMDD and is abusing substances in order to cope with the pain, The Recovery Village can help. For an integrative approach to treatment and recovery, call today to speak to one of our representatives. 

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Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Hillary Webster, ND
Dr. Hillary Webster is a board-certified Naturopathic Doctor and a self-proclaimed Hormone Advocate. Read more

Reid, RL. “Diagnostic Criteria for Premenstrual Dys[…]oric Disorder (PMDD).” Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (Formerly Premenstrual Syndrome). January 23, 2017. Accessed June 5 2019.

Office on Women’s Health. “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).” March 16, 2018. Accessed June 5 2019.

Medline Plus. “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.” September 25, 2018. Accessed Jaune 5, 2019.

BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre. “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Premenstr[…] Disorder (PMDD).” Accessed June 5, 2019.

Chisholm, Andrea. “Premenstrual dysphoria disorder: It’s […]ehavior choice.” Harvard Health Blog. Accessed June 5, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.