Around 1.6 per cent of women and girls — equivalent to around 31 million worldwide — have symptomatic Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), according to a new review of global studies, calling more for raising better awareness of the disease.
Women with PMDD suffer mood changes (such as depression and anxiety), physical symptoms (such as breast tenderness, and joint pain), and cognitive problems (difficulty concentrating or memory complaints).
According to Dr Thomas Reilly at the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry, the proportion of those affected could be higher than 1.6 per cent.
“Because diagnostic criteria is so strict, this is likely an underestimation of the lifetime prevalence of PMDD, and many more women and girls may be undiagnosed. Even so, the data emphasises that at a given timepoint there is still a significant minority of women with symptomatic PMDD, which is strongly associated with suicidal thoughts,” he said.
A higher proportion — 3.2 per cent — had provisional diagnoses, where the condition is suspected but symptoms had not been measured for a sustained period of time to meet criteria for confirmed diagnosis.
“There is little training around PMDD for psychiatrists or indeed medical students. Patients often find themselves falling through gaps in clinical services, such as between gynaecology and mental health services. GPs’ knowledge about PMDD is also very variable. In psychiatry, we rarely consider whether a patient’s symptoms might relate to hormonal changes.
“We need better awareness and training among health professionals about this debilitating but highly treatable condition so that patients can benefit from effective, evidence-based management and support,” Dr Reilly added. The study is published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Researchers used data from 50,659 female participants in 44 studies across six continents. They say the data challenges many preconceptions about the illness, including that it is a medicalisation of ‘normal’ menstrual symptoms, or that it was a ‘Western culture-bound syndrome’.
“In a world where the health and wellbeing of every individual matters, the revelation that approximately 31 million females worldwide may be silently grappling with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a condition that deeply impacts their daily lives, cannot be overlooked,” said Clare Knox, an organisational psychologist who co-authored the paper and has experienced PMDD herself.