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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stress and the PMDD Woman



So what causes stress in a PMDD woman?

Well, trauma, for one.   Trauma, (such as a life-threatening accident, war, imprisonment, witnessing or being the victim of a violent crime, including abuse of any sort, a death or major upheaval in the family, especially one over which you feel you have no control) can predispose a woman toward PMDD.  Incidents of trauma like these create neural pathways in the brain that can lead a woman with PMDD to over-react both physiologically and emotionally to normal everyday stressors in her life by producing an excess of "fight or flight" hormones, among other things.  Once this neural pathway has been opened, via trauma, the ruts are established and only get deeper with each new stressor.
 
To top it off, stress can contribute to further chemical imbalances in the brain.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Is it stress that aggravates your PMDD or does your PMDD stress you out? 
 
The answer is both.  Lucky you.

Other sources of stress that work both ways include: 

Addiction

PMDD women are more prone to addictive behaviors, including sexual addiction, relationships addiction, drug addiction, nicotine addiction, alcohol abuse, and emotional eating, all of which bring stress into your life. 

Substance Abuse

This has to do with the reward/pleasure center of the brain, which is basically not working right during an episode of PMDD.  What you think will bring you pleasure or relief from your weepiness and edginess and anger in fact does not, because your brain is not processing information properly to start with.

The following has nothing to do with substance abuse, but is just one example of how my brain doesn't work right during that time...I walk around the track at my local gym.  I time myself.  On a good, comfortable day, I can do one lap in one minute.  Sometimes I can do it in 55 seconds, when I am pushing myself, and sometimes I'm just not feeling up to par and it takes an extra 5 - 10 seconds.  
But on an average day, I do one lap in one minute.

When I am having an episode of PMDD and force myself to go and walk around the track, and I feel like I am moving through molasses and every step is a challenge...imagine my surprise to discover that according to the second hand of the clock, I am actually moving at my normal pace of one lap per minute.

PMDD screws with your perceptions.  Of everything.

This includes what you see, what you hear, what you feel, what you think, and what you reach for to numb the pain.

Depressed people in general like to self-medicate (Remember, the first D in PMDD stands for Dysphoria, or depression) and jumpstart the reward/pleasure center of the brain with external substances, both legal and illegal.  But the PMDD brain does not respond properly to these stimulants, leaving the woman vulnerable to addiction.  Things that only add to the muddle going on in your brain are unresolved conflicts from the past, destructive behavior patterns, cycles of abuse, day to day stress, relationship issues, and cultural conditioning--all of which can lead to substance abuse in non-PMDD women as well.

So not only do the same things that set other women off set PMDD women off, but:

Our brains do not process the information properly during an episode...which leads to all sorts of drama...which only adds to our level of stress...thus leaving PMDD women more prone to substance abuse disorders, whether from the differences in our brain chemistry or the issues and situations that arise as a result of our choices and actions...which are also in part dictated by our abnormal brain chemistry.  

Did you get all that? 

The bottom line is it's a vicious cycle, and no matter which way you look at it, PMDD women lose.

Adolescent Abuse

Briefly, studies have shown that women who have been abused in adolescence are more likely to develop PMDD.

Childhood Abuse

A scientific link has been found between women who were abused as children, and women who develop PMDD.  Again, this has to do with the faulty neural pathways developed in times of trauma, affecting the "fight or flight" response in the brain.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse has the same effect on the brain as trauma. Women in abusive situations are also more prone to anxiety and depression disorders, which adds to the burden on the brain.

Sexual Abuse

Studies have shown sexual abuse to be a precursor to both Major Depressive Disorder and PMDD, no doubt through the connection to trauma.  A link has been established between sexual abuse, PTSD, elevated thyroid ratios and PMDD.

Next up:  Ideas for reducing the amount of stress in your life.


11 comments:

  1. So, does there necessarily need to be some form of trauma before a woman develops PMDD or can it still develop without said trauma?

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    1. Excellent question! Thank you for reminding me! No, there does not necessarily need to be some form of trauma before a woman develops PMDD. It can also still develop without said trauma. I only meant to point out the correlation between PMDD and trauma in case people didn't know about it. But any hormonal event such as pregnancy or even menopause can alter the hormonal balance enough to set off your PMDD and once you're on that path, the neural pathways kick in.

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    2. OK, thank you :) I was starting to wonder if I had repressed memories or something, haha

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    3. That's the exact thought I had -- whoops, didn't mean to send anyone off on a memory witch hunt. I'll have to make that clear in my next post. Hormonal events can precipitate your PMDD, and there is also a gene that can leave you predisposed to developing PMDD. So it's not all trauma and abuse related, but scientists have established a correlation.

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  2. Wow. I have PMDD, every word I've just read makes so much sense. Thank you, for explaining it in a way I understand completely and can relate to on so many different levels.

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  3. I'm so glad I found your blog! I was diagnosed with PMDD about four years ago. It started after I had my daughter. At first I thought I was bi polar or something, then I saw the pattern in the symptoms. Its so debilitating. I hid it for years for fear of being stigmatized. Im now working on accepting the disorder and looking for more ways to cope.

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  4. So.. I imagine giving birth to triplets while your husband was recently diagnosed with cancer would count as a stress that could bring on PMDD? I never had symptoms before that, just normal PMS. :(

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  5. Absolutely. The former more than the latter, but the combination of the two together is a surefire recipe for PMDD. Add to that no sleep and a general state of exhaustion...the emotional highs and lows must have your head spinning.

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  6. I first started experiencing PMDD symptoms after several really large life changes. I got divorced, moved across country, my employer had just gone through a merger so I was in a new office with new people, and I started a new life with a wonderful man. The irony is that I was the happiest I'd been in years when symptoms began to show...it was just stress overload though from all the recent changes. So stress doesn't have to necessarily come from bad causes, the good can trigger the onset too when it overwhelms you like mine did!

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  7. What is the thyroid connection to ptsd and pmdd?

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    1. I don't know. I just know there is a connection. I have not had time to study it in depth. But if you Google the terms PMDD, PTSD and thyroid, the information will come up. One day I hope to have the time to research the connection and write more about it here. For now, I am just pointing the arrow, so that interested women can look further into it as it pertains to them.

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