You don't have to accept severe period pain or heavy bleeding. Join the "Just a Period" campaign

9 PMDD mythbusters

A young white women looking confused.

Do you know fact from fiction when it comes to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)?

Here we break down some of the most common myths.

1. PMDD is a hormonal imbalance

PMDD is not about having too much or too little hormones. Those with PMDD have a sensitivity to the natural changes and fluctuations that occur during the menstrual cycle. PMDD is a severe negative reaction in the brain to the natural rise and fall of oestrogen and progesterone.

2. PMDD is hard to diagnose

The only way to diagnose PMDD is by tracking symptoms daily for at least two menstrual cycles. Some key symptoms of PMDD include:

  • Mood/emotional changes (e.g. mood swings, feeling suddenly sad or tearful, or increased sensitivity to rejection)
  • Irritability, anger, or increased interpersonal conflict
  • Depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, feeling worthless or guilty
  • Anxiety, tension, or feelings of being keyed up or on edge

3. PMDD is the same as PMS

PMS and PMDD are often used (incorrectly) interchangeably in mainstream media and popular culture. However, the causes, diagnosis, and treatment for PMDD differ very significantly from PMS. It is important to use the correct terminology when discussing PMDD so that awareness, education, and treatment may be correctly achieved.

4. PMDD is very rare

PMDD is more common than is thought, estimated to affect 5.5% of women and AFAB individuals of reproductive age. It as common as diabetes and is estimated to affect 824,000 women in the United Kingdom.

5. Those with PMDD are ‘over-reacting’

PMDD can cause severe emotional, professional, and personal harm to those who have it. Sufferers of PMDD report damaging and impulsive behaviours that may include suddenly leaving a job or a relationship. Others report sudden and increased thoughts about suicide and self-harm. PMDD can feel like a "half-life" or "one week of hell and three weeks of cleaning up".

6. PMDD isn’t life-threatening

PMDD can pose a threat to life. An alarming number of people (34%) with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) have attempted suicide to escape the debilitating symptoms with a much higher number planning (49%) or thinking (72%) about suicide.

7. In most cases, PMDD is diagnosed quickly

Shockingly, those with PMDD waited an average of 12 years and saw an average of six different medical providers before receiving an accurate diagnosis of PMDD.

8. PMDD causes heavy periods/cramps/period pains

Although physical symptoms such as premenstrual cramping/bloating/breast pain can be symptoms of PMDD, they are not primary symptoms. PMDD is an abnormal reaction that occurs in the brain and produces primarily psychological/psychiatric symptoms.

9. A hysterectomy is a cure for PMDD

A hysterectomy is not a ‘cure’ for PMDD. Surgery (removal of the ovaries resulting in surgical menopause, with or without a hysterectomy) is the last line in treatment reserved only for those with severe symptoms who have not gained relief from available options.

If you have any symptoms or concerns, always speak to your doctor. 

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a very a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It causes a range of emotional and physical symptoms every month during the week or two before your period, which resolve within a few days of your period starting.

Our PMDD mythbusters was created in partnership with the International Association For Premenstrual Disorders. You can find more information about PMDD on their website. This includes the facts & figures around PMDD, a guide for people that have just been diagnosed with PMDD and the support available.

Watch our ambassador Dr Aziza Sesay, break down some of the most common myths on PMDD.

Watch our first webinar of 2024 on PMDD