Women are diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder at three times the rate of men. There is much evidence to suggest that women with PMDD are most commonly misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling occurs when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states, all within a year. A woman with PMDD will experience a minimum of two manic and/or depressive episodes in two months (or the equivalent of two menstrual cycles). The main indicator being whether or not these episodes occur on the days between ovulation and the onset of her period only. If a woman does not track her menstrual cycle or is not advised to track her menstrual cycle, she is at an increased risk to be misdiagnosed and treated with heavy antipsychotic drugs that may have potential long-term risks. 1,2,3

Symptoms of PMDD

  • Feelings of sadness or despair or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks Mood swings or frequent crying
  • Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low-energy
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling out of control
  • Physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain
  • And more

Symptoms of BPD

  • Feelings of sadness or despair or even thoughts of suicide
  • Feelings of tension or anxiety
  • Panic attacks Mood swings or frequent crying
  • Lasting irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Trouble thinking or focusing
  • Tiredness or low-energy
  • Hyperactivity and/or impulsivity
  • Trouble sleeping or extreme fatigue
  • Feeling out of control
  • Agitation or rapid and frenzied speaking
  • And more 

 

It is clear there are many similarities between Bipolar Disorder and PMDD. It is critical, however, to distinguish between the two as one is a severe psychiatric disorder and the other is a disorder of the endocrine system (i.e. hormone related). While PMDD and bipolar disorder are both associated with mood lability and extreme mood states, the two disorders can be differentiated by the synchronization of PMDD mood swings with the menstrual cycle. In contrast, the mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are not tightly linked to any regular body cycle.

Tracking Symptoms

The first step to a correct diagnosis is to track your symptoms with your cycle. Download this free printable symptom tracker form or a free tracking app for iPhone or Android. You may also contact a peer-support volunteer for more information.

References

1. Bipolar Disorder in Adults. (2012). Retrieved October 19, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in-adults/index.shtml.
2. Pearlstein, T., & Steiner, M. (2008, July 1). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Burden of illness and treatment update. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440788/.
3. Nimh.nih.gov,. 2015. 'NIMH » Mental Health Medications'. Retrieved November 15, 2015. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/mental-health-medications/mental-health-medications.shtml.
4. J, Studd. 2015. 'Severe Premenstrual Syndrome And Bipolar Disorder: A Tragic Confusion. - Pubmed - NCBI '. Ncbi.Nlm.Nih.Gov. Accessed November 15, 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22611228.
5. Amhc.org,. 2015. 'Bipolar Disorder Versus Major Depression And Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder - Bipolar Disorder'. Accessed November, 15 2015. http://www.amhc.org/4-bipolar-disorder/article/11199-bipolar-disorder-versus-major-depression-and-premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder.