Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(7):1253-1254

What is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)?

PMDD is a severe form of a common problem called premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. About 75 percent of women of childbearing age have some PMS problems. About 2 to 10 percent of women in this age group have PMDD.

How do I know if I have PMDD?

The symptoms of PMDD are:

  • Sadness and crying

  • Feeling nervous, anxious, and irritable

  • Strong cravings for certain foods

  • Problems paying attention and concentrating

  • Physical problems such as breast tenderness, headaches, joint or muscle pain, and swelling or bloating

  • Trouble sleeping

These symptoms can affect your relationships and work ability. If you have some of these symptoms 10 to 14 days before your period and they improve when your period starts, you might have PMDD. Your family doctor can help you find out for sure.

What causes PMDD?

The exact cause of PMDD is not known. Changes in female hormones related to your period may cause PMDD. Stressful life events and a family history of PMS or PMDD may increase your chances of getting PMDD.

How does my doctor find out if I have PMDD?

Your doctor will check your symptoms and the way they relate to your menstrual cycle. You might fill out a symptom chart (like the one at the end of this handout) for several weeks. There is no test that can diagnose PMDD.

How is PMDD treated?

Your doctor will ask you about how bad your symptoms are and will tell you about different treatments. For mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor may suggest changes in your diet and lifestyle. You might talk to a counselor about your PMDD symptoms and life stresses. Medicines may help with severe symptoms.

What medicines are helpful?

Certain medicines used to treat depression also treat PMDD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors help by increasing the effect of a brain chemical called serotonin.

Does that mean I have depression?

No. These medicines work for both conditions.

How often do I have to take these medicines?

Some of these medicines you take for 10 to 14 days before each period.

What if these medicines do not work?

Your doctor knows about other treatments. After talking with you, your doctor might have you try something else.

Where can I get more information about PMDD?

The following Internet sites may provide you with more information:

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