Coping with PMDD | Center for Growth Therapy

Coping with PMDD

Alex , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director

Coping with PMDD: PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, is when premenstrual symptoms are more severe than PMS, occurring for a longer period of time, and affecting mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. Whether you have been professionally diagnosed or beginning to feel symptoms associated with PMDD, hope is not lost! Coping with PMDD can be challenging when you are overwhelmed by mental and physical symptoms, but you have the best chance of easing your discomfort by seeking support and planning your treatment methods before your symptoms strike. We urge women coping with PMDD to manage their symptoms and ease their discomfort by taking the following steps:

Tracking and Journaling

Keeping tracking of your symptoms is beneficial towards your research. It is important to make note of onset, triggers, frequency, and intensity of symptoms. Throughout your monthly cycle, log your symptoms on a daily basis. A pen and paper works fine, but thanks to modern technology, there are phone apps, computer programs, and many other options available to make tracking your symptoms that much easier. As the month progresses, you can watch your symptoms and notice any changes. For example, you can notice that your irritability intensifies for two weeks before your period, while you only have anxiety for one week. Emotional symptoms have a way of sneaking up on you, causing uncertainty and feeling as if the depression or the anxiety will never go away. These are times that you can refer to your journal and see that you the feelings you have aren’t “out of nowhere”, but are signaling your period is on its way. Sometimes that simple reminder is all we need to snap us back to reality and be a comforting form of support.

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be the difference between having tolerable or unbearable symptoms. Making healthy decisions include taking a walk to a store instead of driving, eating an apple instead of chips, or taking part in something active with friends. Every positive change can ease the physical symptoms (bloating, fatigue, abdominal cramps), as well the emotional ones. You always hear that exercising has positive health benefits, and coping with PMDD is no different. By taking part in physical activity, you are decreasing bloating and excessive water retention, easing abdominal cramps, and the extra endorphins will ease irritability and moodiness. By limiting (or excluding) sugar, excess sodium, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol from your diet, you will be replacing the “junk” with healthier alternatives, giving your body the proper energy to fight off your negative symptoms. Supplementing your diet with vitamins can also help while you are transitioning to healthier eating. For example, calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acid, and B-6 are all said to reduce symptoms such as bloating, cramps, food cravings, breast pain, irritability, and hormone related depression. Making healthy lifestyle choices may seem overwhelming, but as mentioned above, every little bit helps.

Using your tracking system is crucial while you are making your healthy life changes. Make sure you write down your regular eating and exercise routine, and then as you replace your routine with healthy lifestyle alternatives, make note of how this has impacted your symptoms. For example, after a few weeks of eating healthy, notice if your symptoms of irritability, abdominal cramps, or anxiety have improved along with it. This will be a positive reinforcement that you are on taking the important steps to feel better.

Relaxation

Stress is the culprit of many things, including the effect of your PMDD symptoms. When you first begin tracking your symptoms, it is important to identify any factors that may be exacerbating your specific symptoms, such as a stressful presentation at work or an argument with a loved one. As you are monitoring your symptoms, begin participating in daily relaxation techniques to help you cope while your emotions feel out of control. They can also help you reduce the symptoms as well. Relaxation techniques include yoga stretches, meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and journaling to release any feelings you have onto paper. You can also take part in a hobby, such as reading a book by your favorite author, spending time with loved ones, pampering yourself by getting a massage or a pedicure, catching up on your favorite TV show, or doing something crafty. Whatever outlet you choose, make sure it releases endorphins and causes you to stay calm and peaceful. After you have found what relaxation method works for you, make sure you utilize your tracking system as a guide to observe the intensity of your emotional symptoms, which can also be beneficial in deciding what methods are helpful based on the decrease of your symptoms after you engage in that activity.

Seek Support

When holistic methods of treatment are not helpful on their own, there are a variety of options to consider when coping with PMDD. Having a support system is crucial in finding the best course of treatment. Spending time with friends and family may be helpful in having the courage to brave through your symptoms. PMDD has been said to have a hereditary link, but whether or not this is true, often times family members may have the same symptoms and intensity and have tips on how to ease the same pain you are experiencing. Another avenue to take in finding a therapist who is understanding of women’s issues, who can help you make rational decisions and motivate you to cope with your symptoms when your hormones are pulling you in all different directions. There are also online and community support groups for women struggling with PMDD and severe PMS. Often times hearing how other women have been living with PMDD can provide unique insight and advice that has worked for them, as well as the support to push through your symptoms every month. Talking to the primary care physician or gynecologist who diagnosed you can also provide medical options to help manage your symptoms when therapy and other holistic methods need to be supplemented. Treatment can include oral contraceptives and/or balancing your hormones in other ways. Psychiatrists, who can prescribe medication, could also assist you with emotional struggles, which include irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and anger. Many times emotional disorders are often exacerbated by hormonal imbalances, which could be diagnosed to help you understand what you are going through.

It is important for every woman to understand that even though we all go through menstruation, the severity and coping mechanisms are different for everyone. While finding out what works for you, remember that it is your body, and you have the right to be assertive about the care you need. Every woman deserves to have the best quality of life, and that involves the lowest possible amount of menstrual pain and discomfort!

Find a PMDD psychotherapist near me. Call 215 922 5683 x 100 and speak to a therapist at The Center For Growth.

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