ARE YOU DEPRESSED?
If there are certain days of the month when you feel extremely down, anxious, stressed or angry, and experience headaches or weight gain, you may be suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS.
For Michelle Sims, 36, there were some days a month when she was unable to leave the house due to pain, mood swings and depression. These symptoms, which are typical of PMDD, worsened after she had a baby, and continued for 14 years.
“The world would become a much harsher and meaner place, and the littlest things would make me cry,” she says. Researchers believe PMDD is triggered by the hormonal changes that occur around ovulation, when women experience a decline in oestrogen and a rise in progesterone. Meanwhile, recent studies have shown a connection between PMDD and low levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin.
“Even if you’ve never suffered from depression before, you may find that for one to five days a month, you’re displaying typical depressive symptoms. The key to the diagnosis [of PMDD] is that symptoms should come and go at the same time of the menstrual month,” Dr Ronald McCoy, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, says.
Depression, however, is “a sustained low mood over a period of time”, he says. The main problem is there’s no specific test for PMDD. If you visit a GP with depression symptoms, they should check if hormones can be excluded as a contributing factor. However, a blood test may reveal that your hormone levels are normal. Confused?
“It’s the specific way your individual hormones interact with the cells all over your body – not just your uterus or ovaries or brain – that determine how your hormones affect you, and there’s no way to test for this cell-hormone interaction other than keeping track of your symptoms,” McCoy says. “This means many women go undiagnosed, or are incorrectly diagnosed with depression.”
“We do know that the brain loves oestrogen – it’s the brain’s natural antidepressant,” associate professor John Eden, a gynaecologist from the Women’s Health & Research Institute of Australia, says. “Research has found [that] women with PMT seem to have less oestrogen,”
However, patterns are emerging. “Many women in their late 30s and early 40s are more likely to suffer from PMDD, or women who suffer from postnatal depression may find their symptoms are much more severe once their period resumes after giving birth,” Eden says. The treatment for PMDD is similar to PMS and includes the following changes: Diet & lifestyle: Lower your alcohol and coffee intake, get plenty of sleep, and limit salt, sugar and processed foods. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that taking 1200mg of calcium a day can