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Second webinar instalment shares initial findings from world first genetic study into premenstrual dysphoric disorder

22 March 2024

The Women’s Winter Webinars series aims to discuss how reproductive events such as pregnancy, the menstrual cycle and reproductive ageing can impact the mental health of women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB).

Over 800 people have taken part in the PreDDICT study led by Professor Arianna Di Florio so far, which aims to learn improve the diagnosis and treatment of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) as well as identify those at risk through learning more about environmental and genetic factors.

Outlining PMDD

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a mood disorder that is estimated to affect around 5.5% of women and people who experience periods. That’s around 80,000 people in the UK.

During the week before the onset of bleeding (known as the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle), these individuals experience severe mood and emotional changes including anxiety and low mood, a decreased interest in usual activities, difficulties concentrating and more.

These symptoms start to improve within a few days after the onset of menstrual bleeding (the period).

This webinar also saw the launch of a new animation which was developed by the reproductive mental health programme researchers in collaboration with those with lived experience of PMDD.

Watch the animation

Watch the animation

Sharing findings from the PreDDICT study

Psychology assistant Chloe Apsey  is working on NCMH’s PMDD research and she shared the initial findings so far:

“What’s interesting about PMDD is that the symptoms subside once bleeding has begun, but one thing that is commonly missed in research and is a requirement for diagnosis is two months of mood monitoring, such as a diary."

This is why participants who take part the PreDDICT research are asked to complete a mood monitoring diary over two consecutive cycles, alongside an initial online survey. Some participants are also asked to provide a genetic sample via a postal spit-kit.

Over 830 people have participated in the survey since it was launched, which includes 112 genetic samples provided and 58 completed mood diaries.

This initial data showed that there were strong links associated with PMDD and depression, which can be associated with the aftermath in severity of symptoms each month.

“When we’ve spoken to people with PMDD we’ve noticed that because symptoms are severe a lot of people find themselves picking up the pieces beyond the luteal phase.”

Alongside this, depression is also a more widely known and common diagnosis, whilst there is still little known about PMDD which has often led missed or misdiagnosis.

Chloe also discussed other findings from the research, such as the association between PMDD and ADHD, as well as misdiagnosis.

“Going forward with these initial findings, our goal is to reach 1,000 participants which will mean that this will be the largest genetic dataset of people with PMDD in the UK.”

We also want to continue building on our existing collaborations. We’ve used the insights from people with lived experience to guide our research based on the information they’ve given us. This is something we will continue doing.”

Take part in PMDD research

The link between PMDD and bipolar disorder

Professor Arianna Di Florio discussed the overlap in symptoms of bipolar and PMDD. She said:

“When looking at the diagnostic criteria for PMDD we can see that there are symptoms which are similar to bipolar disorder such as irritability, interpersonal conflict, and depressed mood.”

However, Professor Di Florio noted that irritability can be more difficult to define and more goes on behind the scenes of this symptoms of the disorder that people express and even notes the impact of alcohol on female reproductive hormones.

Professor Di Florio also discussed mood instability, another common symptom of bipolar and PMDD which has is more common in women than men.

However, the key difference for these diagnoses, including borderline personality disorder (BPD) is the timing of symptoms.

“Symptoms of PMDD are present during the luteal phase whereas symptoms of mania can occur in random yet distinct time periods.”
Professor Arianna Di Florio Professor, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences

Whilst it is possible to experience symptoms of PMDD and bipolar, Professor Di Florio suggests that perhaps premenstrual exacerbation (PME) may be a more suitable diagnosis.

Professor Di Florio continued to discuss the various treatment pathways of PMDD and shared key insights into how symptoms can be better managed and how diagnosis can be improved.

Watch the webinar in full including a Q&A session.

Watch the webinar in full including a Q&A session.

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