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PMDD: Riding the Wave vs. Drowning

Posted by Christina Pistotnik



Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is similar to PMS however it is much more severe. It takes a toll on a person’s emotional state and how they might react to people or situations. This can put a strain on relationships with others and themselves. 

One of my patients is so graciously and bravely willing to share her story about what she experienced prior to finding multiple ways to cope with PMDD. She shares about how these resources, including acupuncture, have helped her live her life a bit more fluidly.   

These are M.C.’s Words: 

“While going through my spousal separation and at the same time starting a business, I experienced an abnormally high amount of stress. Although normally high functioning in my career and life, one week, I found myself increasingly unable to cope. At the worst point, I was playing with my 5 year old son and although I would normally enjoy that, on that morning, I was struck by a sudden sense that my whole life felt hopeless, empty and bleak.

Getting through the day was a struggle between moments of severe depression and debilitating anxiety, and I felt a combination of ashamed, confused, and afraid about what I was experiencing.

I went to the grocery store that evening and felt so depressed when I got home that I went straight to the couch and couldn’t even bring myself to put things in the fridge or freezer. As I fought with myself over it in my mind, I also felt a sense of not wanting or being able to survive another minute if this was what my life was going to be like. 

The next day I got my period and was immediately perfectly fine again, which was a huge relief but also made me realize that my menstrual cycle likely was influencing what I was experiencing.

I went to see my doctor, and was diagnosed with PMDD, a type of PMS affecting about 10% of women that is so severe that it can impair one’s ability to maintain relationships and employment, and often results in suicidal thoughts. I recall him saying that psychology wouldn’t help – I was up against my physiology.

The diagnosis felt devastating. That this state of being was a condition that I would live with forever felt heavy and overwhelming. But getting the diagnosis at 39 years old also gave me a name for and some answers to explain the inconsistent bursts of depression, anxiety, and inability to trust my emotional state. I had experienced these feelings since being a teenager and that had been a significant barrier to me developing healthy confidence and self esteem, and at times, healthy relationships. 

Now knowing what I was dealing with, I started tracking the patterns and did a lot of research and experimenting to figure out how to manage the condition. I found that under stress, the unpredictable hormonal swings I experienced in the 10-14 days before my period were causing me to show up as angry, sullen, emotionally volatile, and mean, and that was not the kind of parent, partner, friend, or person I wanted to be.

I also didn’t want to go on the antidepressants my doctor had described, as the side effects sounded as bad as the condition they were addressing. I saw a naturopath, took many vitamin supplements, started eating better and exercising more frequently, meditated, went for massages and acupuncture, started using an app and journal to track my symptoms, and had conversations with everyone close to me about what I was experiencing. I also made a very intentional effort to reduce stress in my life. 

Acupuncture was one of the most effective interventions in alleviating the severity of the symptoms. I recall my first meeting with Christina, where I was so on edge and upset by my condition, I cried within the first five minutes and felt helpless and hopeless. She was extremely kind and empathetic, and the treatments made a noticeable difference.

After a few months of treatments, along with other lifestyle interventions, things turned a corner. Seven months after my diagnosis, I now feel in control of my PMDD, like I can surf the crashing ocean waves inside rather than getting drawn under and drowning. It’s still very hard to deal with each month and I somewhat dread the week before my period, but I also know what I can do to manage the symptoms and I remind myself on the worst days that it will be over soon and I will feel like myself again.

Having a condition like this is awful, but it has also helped me understand myself and my past experiences better and appreciate the positive experiences in my life more. And being in control of the condition has made me feel more in control of my life, which is refreshingly empowering.” 

As M.C. has stated, she does a multitude of things to manage her PMDD with acupuncture being one of her ways of getting through the hump of it.

Acupuncture has helped other people who suffer from PMDD. One meta-analysis shows that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) reduces PMDD symptoms by more than 50% (1). 

If you have been diagnosed with PMDD or experience emotional symptoms such as irritability, frustration, sadness, or anxiety leading up to your menstrual cycle our qualified practitioners can help. Contact us today

Resources:

  1. Jang, S. H., Kim, D. I., & Choi, M. S. (2014). Effects and treatment methods of acupuncture and herbal medicine for premenstrual syndrome/premenstrual dysphoric disorder: systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine14, 11. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-11