By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) — Pre-menstrual syndrome is something most women suffer from at some time in their life. But for some women it goes way beyond the aches, pains and mood swings.

Joanna Juntunen suffers from a severe form of PMS called PMDD or Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder. “I have no control of my feelings and my actions or really anything,” she said. “It’s like somebody else had control of my brain.”

Juntunen never knew what was going on with her body. “It just seemed always that they were really just severe PMS symptoms,” she said. But Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatrist Laura Petrillo says it is much more than that.

WBZ-TV’s Kate Merrill reports.

“The key factor that is different from PMS is that it has to cause impairment in their functioning,” she said.

Physical symptoms of PMDD include abdominal pain, bloating, and headaches. The emotional symptoms like depression, anxiety, irritability and trouble concentrating can be even more disruptive to a woman’s life.

“The main area we see impairment is in their interpersonal relationship,” Dr. Petrillo explained. That was certainly true for Juntunen. “I used to break up with my boyfriend every month at that time,” she said.

The other distinguishing factor of PMDD is its duration. PMS generally lasts a few days, but PMDD symptoms can last up to two weeks. “So if you think about it, for one to two weeks a month, a woman is significantly impaired if she carries this diagnosis,” said Dr. Petrillo.

Studies have shown that lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of PMDD. Exercise works for some women. Diet restrictions like reducing sugar, alcohol and caffeine can also be beneficial. Medications like anti-depressants and psychotherapy may also be prescribed.

Juntunen says simply getting the diagnosis has helped her cope. “It’s much easier to deal with something like this when you know the reason behind it,” she said.


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