ADHD in Women

“PMDD Has Affected My Whole Life.”

From painful and disruptive to irrational and suicidal thoughts, the symptoms of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) disproportionately impact people with ADHD. In a recent survey, ADDitude readers asked the medical community to do more to address these hormonal health conditions.

PMDD, PMS, menstrual cycle
Painful female periods concept. Vector flat character illustration. Woman standing and suffering menstrual abdominal pain isolated on pink background. Design for health care.

“PMDD is monstrous. I wish I could help women with it. Thank you for asking about this brutal condition.”

“Doctors do not take my PMDD symptoms seriously.”

“Please get this information to the medical and educational professionals. Beg them to take this seriously.”

PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) disproportionately impact women with ADHD. We know this from a 2020 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research that found women with ADHD may experience more severe symptoms of hormone-related mood disorders than women without ADHD. 1

However, only a recent ADDitude survey reveals the severity of the problem: 100% of readers who menstruate said they have a history of severe PMS and/or PMDD. A majority reported alarming resistance from health care providers who dismissed their symptoms or blamed ADHD. And many took the opportunity in our survey to ask the medical community to take more seriously the impact of severe PMS and PMDD, specifically, and women’s voices more generally.

“I first brought up PMDD to my gynecologist when I was 20. She told me that my boyfriend at the time was just ‘causing problems’ and wouldn’t believe that it was me concerned for my own health.”

[Self-Test: What Does ADHD Look Like in Women?]

“I’ve had to fight to be heard that it’s real. Struggling to find the right professional help in Sydney, Australia. I am desperate.”

“I wish the medical establishment would do more about this.”

Below, ADDitude readers describe with great vulnerability and resolve how severely PMS and PMDD have affected their lives (at school, at work, at home) and disrupted their relationships. They discuss “suicidal thoughts,” “mood swings,” “impairing depression,” and feeling like an “emotionless shell.”

Do you have severe PMS or PMDD? When were you diagnosed? What are your symptoms, and how do you manage them? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

“It’s horrible. You get misdiagnosed throughout your life. Then you finally get some answers and realize that you will be terribly depressed and anxious for half of your life until you hit menopause. We get two weeks of mental anguish before our periods, one week of feeling physically bad on our periods, and one week a month to feel normal. PMDD sucks.” — Kristi, Michigan

[Menopause, Hormones, & ADHD: What We Know, What Research is Needed]

“I experience what can only be described as depression every month leading up to my period. I’m now on an anti-depressant, which has helped some, but I still have this feeling of, ‘What’s wrong with me? Oh, it’s just that time of the month.’”An ADDitude Reader

“More than 30 years ago, I told my family doctor I had symptoms and huge mood problems. He leaned in and said‚ ‘You mean, bitchy?’ So yeah, PMDD here.” — Melissa, Virginia

“I didn’t know about PMDD until six months ago, around the time of my ADHD diagnosis. I’d struggled with terrible periods since the start, which worsened with age. I feel like I need to fly a warning flag for my family. It is like a light switch flips, and I become a completely different person. It’s impacting my relationships with my partner and kids. I’m not a great wife and mom during those two weeks before my period starts. I’m distant and quick-fused. I’m constantly trying not to spew the self-deprecating internal dialogue in my head with my kids and take my internal chaos out on my partner. It’s so hard.” — Meredith, Texas

“I thought it was normal to feel suicidal four to five days leading up to my period. When I feel miserable, I tell myself, ‘It’s just until you start bleeding. Ignore it.’ My doctor put me on anti-depressants, which have really helped.” — Kristy, Australia

“Treatment-resistant PMDD has affected my whole life. I have struggled with physical symptoms and social stigma. The severity of my symptoms has destroyed my social and work relationships. I’m a chronic bridge burner. I stop everything so I can deal with my cycle. I have hurt many people, just trying to experience a life worth wanting. I feel defeated, but I keep going and hope I can get ahead of the next wave.” — Ray, Canada

“The first two to three days of my cycle were always full of painful cramping and nausea. I was completely miserable and sometimes doubled over in pain. Then I’d have heavy bleeding for 7 to 10 days. I also had undiagnosed endometriosis. Doctors just scoffed and said, ‘I couldn’t possibly be in that much pain.’ I’m grateful to be in perimenopause.” — An ADDitude Reader

“Since my first period, I have experienced PMDD up to two weeks before my menses. I feel extremely melancholy and dysphoric. As a teenager, I would cry every day for hours and feel suicidal until my period arrived, at which the symptoms would all magically disappear. I could be crying my eyes out and feel myself starting to bleed, and suddenly, I was totally fine.” — Karin, Sweden

“Seven to ten days before my cycle starts, I get irritable and sad. I rage out. I feel like nothing can contain me or calm the storm. I hurt the people around me, the people I love. It scares my kids and frustrates my husband. I was finally diagnosed last month and have been taking Zoloft. I was amazed this last pre-cycle time that I could remain calm. I used to think it was me; that I was born ‘bad.’ It’s been a relief to feel my true loving self.” — An ADDitude Reader

“For one week a month, I turn into a different person. I have outbursts of laughter, tears, and anger. I feel like combusting. My sensory issues are heightened. I’m irritated by everything. My stimming gets way worse. At work, I ask to move into a different room or constantly wear headphones. At home, I generally avoid people so that I don’t burst out.” — Stacey, Kenya

“I have exhibited significant PMDD symptoms since puberty. My symptoms were ignored, or I was mistreated more than I could count. There was ALWAYS an excuse — whether it came from other women, my family doctor, or other doctors. ‘Teens always have hard, irregular periods,’ ‘Your body is settling into adulthood and sorting itself out,’ ‘It will likely get better when you have a baby,’ and other lies were told. I no longer seek help. I just suffer at home.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I would get angry and depressed for at least a week before every period. It was debilitating. I thought it was depression. So, my doctor put me on meds that made me emotionally numb half the time and did nothing for the original symptoms. When I noticed symptoms always happened before my period, I searched online and learned about PMDD. My gynecologist prescribed me a med that worked! But my original doctor? He never once mentioned PMDD. After seeing him for two decades, I switched to a female doctor. Now, I get proper care for PMDD, and I feel heard.” — Seeta

“I’ve always had uncomfortable periods. In my late 20s, the cramps, bloating, irritability, and fatigue worsened. I knew something needed to change when my daughter was in kindergarten. My moodiness, pain, and fatigue became so problematic that she started having behavioral problems at school every week before my period started. I started hormonal birth control. It’s been a lifesaver!”— An ADDitude Reader

“My RSD (rejection sensitive dysphoria) shoots way up. I get incredible anxiety and panic attacks that are otherwise absent. I go on food binges and then feel guilty. I fantasize and have intrusive thoughts about self-harm. I am convinced that my husband doesn’t need me and that his friends are better for him than I am. Most of my symptoms drop dramatically around the start of my period. I’m left wondering if my feelings were even real. I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 4, but doctors do not take my PMS/PMDD symptoms seriously. Getting a diagnosis and proper treatment for PMDD is hard.” — Jessica, Missouri

ADHD and PMDD Symptoms: Next Steps

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1Dorani F, Bijlenga D, Beekman ATF, van Someren EJW, Kooij JJS. Prevalence of hormone-related mood disorder symptoms in women with ADHD. (2020) J Psychiatr Res. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.12.005