Victoria’s Secret model, Bridget Malcolm, 26, has just taken to Instagram to reveal that during a recent photo shoot she was struggling.
“I was an anxious wreck, second guessing myself and terrified of the dark. It has been a hellish couple of weeks for my anxiety and general mental wellbeing.”
While she didn’t know what was plaguing her at the time, the model went on to say, “I finally have a diagnosis – PMDD.”
So what is PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder)?
PMDD is a mood disorder that affects women in the latter part of their menstrual cycle (called the luteal phase), from the time of ovulation until their period starts.
In other words, it strikes for approximately two weeks out of every month.
During that time, women with PMDD experience “quite severe symptoms,” says Melbourne-based obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Joseph Sgroi.
He says these symptoms can include mood swings, sadness, depression, suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, lack of appetite and sleep changes, among others.
And, he says, it’s not as rare as you might think, affecting approximately one to two per cent of women.
How do I know if I have PMDD – or if I just have PMS?
While it’s common to suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS), PMDD is a psychiatric illness that is far more severe.
He notes it can be hard for people to tell how ‘severe’ their symptoms are. So, if you’re worried you may have PMDD, he recommends seeing a health professional who can help determine what’s going on.
What’s the treatment for PMDD?
The first step in treating PMDD is recognising you may have this condition, says Dr Sgroi. As mentioned before, your doctor can help you with this.
Mind you, there could be other possible causes for your symptoms.
If your symptoms are present throughout the entire month (rather than only being present in the lead-up to your period), you could have a different diagnosis, such as generalised anxiety disorder or depression.
Alternatively, he says, your symptoms could be due to thyroid disease, certain drugs or other medical conditions.
If you have PMDD, thankfully Dr Sgroi reassures there are lots of treatments that can help.
He says seeing a psychologist, learning relaxation exercises, eating a good diet and maintaining regular exercise can help if you suffer from PMS, and may also play a supportive role for those with PMDD.
However, he says medications may also be needed to treat PMDD.
One such medication is the pill (OCP). In fact, he says for some women, taking the pill may be all they need to feel like themselves again.
In other cases, medications such as anxiolytics (that reduce anxiety) or antidepressants may work best.
He says these can be used during the whole menstrual cycle, or just around the time your symptoms usually develop (in the lead up to your period).
In severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, surgery may play a role.
While Dr Sgroi says the need for surgery is extremely rare, women who haven’t responded to other treatments have experienced massive relief afterwards.
“The women I’ve done that for, their lives have completely changed. Work’s been better, their relationships have been better; everything [is better].
“It’s like they’re a new person completely.”
As for Bridget, she’s still having a hard time with her PMDD but feels hopeful for the future.
“I am struggling. It is OK to admit that…It is when we hit the dark, rock bottoms that we are forced to find a new way, and to stop living life in a reactionary state.
“I love my life. And I will get it back.”
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you can receive crisis support by phoning Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more on this topic, this woman’s realistic panic attack list has gone viral, and it’s probably a good thing to keep on hand. Plus, this is how the keto diet could be the answer to helping our mental health issues.
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