Women Share Their Heartfelt Stories Of Battling PMDD

» Knowing The Symptoms Of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder PMDD

By Lisa Sigell

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Jen Levinson seems to have the perfect life — five beautiful children, a husband she adores and a job she loves, as a mommy blogger to thousands of women.

“There’s nothing that I would change,” Levinson said.

But there is something that she has kept hidden, something she was ashamed of that happened every month.

“It was a very, very dark, lonely place that I went to,” Levinson said. “I just wanted those that were closest to me to disappear. I wanted my husband not to come home. I wanted my kids not to come home.”

She even had thoughts of killing herself.

“Myself… yes, definitely. Like I did not want to wake up,” she said.

Jen would be filled with sadness, anxiety and even rage for days at a time.

“Then all of a sudden, like three days or four days later, the old Jen was back,” she said.

Jen started a journal and realized it was happening at the same time every month.

Johanna Juntunen also noticed a pattern her life, which was definitely different than Jen’s. She is single with no kids, but the feelings were the same — every month crippling emotions and physical pain.

“I really felt that it was not myself, but also that I had no control of my feelings and my actions. You do feel like you’re at the end of the road. Some nights you don’t sleep and it’s really hard to function,” Juntunen said.

Levinson and Juntunen finally went for help and were diagnosed with what’s called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It is essentially a very severe form of PMS that begins one to two weeks before a period and usually ends a few days after a period starts.

“The symptoms of PMDD are severe enough that they impact all aspects of daily life and most severely impacted are the family and home life,” said OBGYN and Professor Andrea Rapkin at the UCLA School of Medicine. Rapkin is an expert in PMDD.

“The most common symptoms of PMDD are irritability and depression and also mood swings, anxiety and tension,” Rapkin said.

There are also physical symptoms, similar to those a woman would have with PMS. But with PMDD the symptoms are debilitating. Women who suffer with it truly cannot function on any level and some feel there is no end in sight.

“The symptoms are often so severe, that women do think of doing harm to themselves and of committing suicide,” Rapkin said.

She said it is not clear what causes PMDD, but they are investigating how chemicals in the brain are affected during ovulation. Treatment includes birth control pills and anti-depressants.

Juntunen has chosen no medication, but is now aware of when the symptoms take control.

Medicine is helping Levinson, but even more so is just knowing her diagnosis.

“It is so freeing, calming and comforting to know that there is a reason, that I’m not just crazy,” Levinson said.

She now watches the calendar very closely and fills in her diary. It helps her control feelings and thoughts during those very difficult days each month. For her it is working.

“I have always, always, always been about helping and sharing and if that meant getting the word out about PMDD, that it would make at least one family’s life better, than it was worth it to me.”

Knowing The Symptoms Of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

National Center for Biotechnology Information: The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS. However, they are generally more severe and debilitating and include a least one mood-related symptom. Symptoms occur during the week just before menstrual bleeding and usually improve within a few days after the period starts.

Five or more of the following symptoms must be present to diagnose PMDD, including one mood-related symptom:

  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Feeling of sadness or hopelessness, possible suicidal thoughts
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Feeling out of control
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Mood swings marked by periods of teariness
  • Panic attack
  • Persistent irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating

For more information about PMDD:

More from Lisa Sigell
  • http://losangelesforme.com/2011/05/women-share-their-heartfelt-stories-of-battling-pmdd/ Women Share Their Heartfelt Stories Of Battling PMDD | Los Angeles for Me

    […] Jen Levinson seems to have the perfect life — five beautiful children, a husband she adores and a job she loves. But there is something painful she has kept hidden, that happens every month. More from: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com… […]

  • rahima

    i have the same problem for long time i was thinking its just me sme date each month

  • Teresa Saunders

    I have all the symptoms listed above and I do mean all of the symptoms, but how do I know that this could possibly be the reasons for my actions. I have thought about the idea of when I get the mood swings and the aggressive anger moments and then all of a sudden the feeling just goes away like a release of pressure. I can relate to all the symptoms but how can I be sure that this is what is really going on with me. I am a single mother of three and the pressures of this economy are not easy to deal with for anyone how can I be sure that this is not the reason.

    • Cindy

      If you have all the symptoms I say your good to go to the dr. and get some meds. you say your a single mom of 3 this means your children need you every single day. you don’t have any free days to wonder if you “have it” or not just be thankful you now know what it is and you can get help. your children need you

  • Cindy

    is it some form of ‘the change of life” can a hysterectomy maybe help in this kind of situation?

    • Cindy D

      no, I had one at 26 and still suffer with pmdd. I;m also in menopause. I am now using a hormone patch. Helps much but not completely. Also, some people could be diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder. Check it out before you decide to use medications..

  • greg

    I see a pattern Hysterectomy, menstrual cycle, menopause, etc. ALL start with the male gender. hys (his), men, and ladies say men never give them anything

  • Marge

    Has your doctor recommended a blood test to check for hormone deficiency? As a peri-menopausal woman, I had these feelings. I was taking compounded hormones (Bi-Est, progesterone and DHEA), to alleviate the hot flashes and other symptoms. However at times during the month (I was not having periods) I would get these feelings of rage, depression, sadness, like a blanket was covering me, etc. My doctor recommended that, during these times, my progesterone level may be dropping and I needed more progesterone. She suggested I use an over the counter Progesterone Cream – it helped my symptoms almost immediately. Also I take a Sepia, a homeopathic remedy, this combination worked for me. My doctor is on staff at Tustin Longevity Center in Tustin. I suggest at least a baseline hormone test before after your period and then before to see if there is a change. Good Luck

  • Christina Simon

    Jen, you’re so brave to share your very personal story to help other women.

  • Erma

    My boyfriend found your article for me to look at. It seems I have all these symptoms, but I am menopausal and dont have my periods anymore?

  • Michelle

    I had a lot of these same symptoms when I had the Mirena put in for BC. I was being treated for depression as I thought that was what it was. However, the medications were not helping. I too finally started journaling & realized it was related to my cycle. I had the Mirena removed and my smyptoms practically disappeared. A year or so later, I do have occasional mood swings & irrabitilty but not the Rage & out of control feeling that I had previously. BTW, most drs, in my experience, seem to fight over getting a baseline measure of hormones. Keep pushing & trust your insticts!

  • Nat

    I have been diognosed with PMDD and it’s horrible, I have all the symtoms. I’m 26 years old and recently engaged and its causging so many problems with my fiance. He’s had it up to his neck with my mood swings. I have thoughts in my head that are not there and I get really angry and I say things to him and then I start crying over dumb things….. after I get my period it goes away and Im fine..but i have to put all the broken pieces together and Its killsing the love between my fiance.My doctor prescribed Anti depressants and I really dont want to take the anti Depressants pill because I heard that it’s not a long term fix. It just covers it up and if I get off it…it will make it worse. I want to get pregnant, but I was told that I could suffer from post pordom deprression and i was wondering if there is anything I can do or take that is natural instaed of the anti depressants?

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