Vicky Pattison has revealed that she has been diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
The former reality TV star, 35, took to Instagram to reveal her health condition, stating that she had struggled with periods her whole adult life but for the past five or so years her PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms have been "out of control".
"It has affected my relationships, my work and my quality of life," she captioned the post. "At times, it made me feel like I was going insane - I just do not recognise myself for two weeks of the month and ever so gradually that time frame is becoming longer.
"Sometimes, when I'm proper in the midst of this and totally consumed by my own dark thoughts I convince myself that I'm never going to get better.. that these feelings and thoughts aren't temporary. That this is who I am now. And that terrifies me."
What is PMDD?
PMDD is a very severe form of PMS that can lead to a range of emotional and physical symptoms and can include feeling depressed and even suicidal.
PMS is the name for the symptoms, such as mood swings, fatigue, headaches and stomach pain, that women can experience in the weeks before their period.
Most women who menstruate get PMS symptoms in the two weeks leading to their period, but women with PMDD have symptoms so severe that it can make it difficult to work, socialise and maintain healthy relationships, Mind says.
Pattison added that she has been to doctors numerous times over the years and "spoke at length" over her concerns which were often dismissed.
"I was made to feel like I was hysterical and unable to deal with the physical and mental ramifications of a period like every other woman could," she explained. "I was made to feel weak. And I felt embarrassed that I was making a fuss when everyone else seemed to be OK."
After deciding to see a private doctor, Pattison was told that her symptoms sounded like PMDD.
"I cried because I felt f***ing heard in a medical setting for the first time in years and also I cried because hopefully now I can start trying to manage this rather than just 'get on with it' like I feel women are expected to," she added.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), around 30% of women experience moderate to severe PMS symptoms, while just 5 % to 8% of British women have PMDD.
The RCOG says there are over 150 symptoms linked to PMDD, both psychological and behavioural. These include the following:
Feeling upset or tearful
Feeling hopeless, angry, tense, overwhelmed, irritable and anxious
Lack of energy
Less interest in activities you generally enjoy
Change in appetite or specific food cravings
Pain in muscles and joints
While the exact causes are not known, a recent study found that PMDD can occur in women who are particularly sensitive to changes in hormone levels as reproductive hormones can have an effect on mood and behaviour.
Some other possible risk factors for PMDD include genetic variations, smoking’s impact on hormone sensitivity, and stress and trauma from previous emotional or physical abuse. Stress has also been shown to make PMDD symptoms worse.
Who is most at risk for PMDD?
Any woman can develop PMDD, but those with an increased risk include women with a family history of PMDD, or those with a personal or family history of depression, postpartum depression, and other mood disorders. Smoking is another risk factor.
Treatment for PMDD
There are a number of ways to treat PMDD. Mind says that the first thing your doctor will likely suggest is lifestyle changes such as changes to your diet, regular exercise, more sleep, and lowering stress levels as this can reduce PMDD to ‘a manageable level’.
Other treatments include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) which are a type of antidepressant, combined oral contraceptives, talking therapy, painkillers or anti-inflammatory medicine, Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) analogue injections to bring on temporary menopause or a hysterectomy.
Help with PMDD
For more specific PMDD information, visit the International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) website.
The app Me v PMDD can help you to track the symptoms of PMDD.
You can call Mind’s helpline on 0300 123 3393 if PMDD is affecting your mental health.
Visit the National Association for Premenstrual Syndromes (NAPS) website to get support such as advice for how to approach your GP.