For Amanda LaFleur, a 37-year-old mother of two, PMS was debilitating. Since her first period at age 13, she had always suffered from severe PMS symptoms, including depression and anxiety, which reached its apex on the day of ovulation. Toward her late 20s the symptoms got much worse — she became heavily bloated in the days preceding her period, which could add as much as 10 pounds a day, and the depression she experienced was always associated with ovulating and worsened significantly, turning into bouts of utter hopelessness. “I would have a hard time going to the store,” she said. “Sounds or anyone looking at me ? I couldn’t handle that,” she told The Huffington Post in an interview.
Eventually doctors diagnosed LaFleur with a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, which affects around 2 to 5 percent of menstruating women, causing them to experience debilitating levels of anxiety and depression in the lead up to their periods. According to previous research women who have PMDD often have a different sensitivity to the sex hormones they release during menstruation. New research, co-authored by Peter Schmidt, chief of the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, appears to corroborate this.
In the study comparing 10 women who had been diagnosed with PMDD, with 9 women without the condition, researchers found that when the former group were given drugs to prevent the release of sex hormones typically produced during their periods ? estradiol or progesterone ? they no longer experienced the symptoms associated with PMDD. As soon as they came off the drugs, the symptoms returned. Researchers also found that the specific gene networks that help dictate how cells react to hormones were different in the women who had PMDD than to those who did not. “It’s the first evidence that this differential hormone sensitivity in PMDD is based on a biological difference that’s occurring on a cellular level,” Schmidt told HuffPost.
He went on to say that although the research will not have any immediate impact on women suffering with PMDD, it has nonetheless helped to establish a better understanding of the condition, which will aid researchers in formulating more effective drugs to treat its symptoms in the future.
LaFleur, who eventually opted to undergo a procedure that has completely alleviated her PMDD symptoms, was heartened by the research. “Unless you’re in it, it’s really hard to understand how awful [PMDD] is.”
Read the full article on The Huffington Post.