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Exploring the Connection Between PMDD and ADHD

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Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are two distinct but often interconnected conditions. Research indicates that people with ADHD who were assigned female at birth are more likely to experience PMDD symptoms compared to those without ADHD.

The Relationship Between PMDD and ADHD

PMDD, a hormone-related mood disorder, is a severe form of PMS with symptoms emerging in the latter menstrual cycle phase. These include intense mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, physical discomfort, and concentration difficulties. They significantly impact overall well-being and daily life.

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What is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition featuring inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These traits affect tasks requiring focus, organization, and impulse control. While commonly associated with children, ADHD can persist into adulthood, influencing personal and professional aspects.

The convergence of PMDD and ADHD poses a unique challenge. Both conditions’ symptoms can amplify, causing heightened emotional volatility and increased difficulties in concentration and organization during the premenstrual phase. Understanding this relationship is crucial for providing care for individuals managing both conditions.

Similar Symptoms Between ADHD and PMDD

Recognizing the commonalities between PMDD symptoms and ADHD is critical, as the overlap in characteristics can complicate getting the correct diagnosis and crafting the right-for-you treatment plan.

  • Inattention:Inattention is a core symptom that both PMDD and ADHD share. This manifests as a difficulty in sustaining focus on tasks or activities that require prolonged concentration. In people living with PMDD, this challenge may become more pronounced during the premenstrual phase, exacerbating existing difficulties in maintaining attention.
  • Impulsivity:Impulsivity is another shared trait. It refers to acting on immediate urges without thoroughly considering the potential consequences. In the context of PMDD and ADHD, this can lead to impulsive decisions and behaviors, which may be more prominent during the premenstrual phase for individuals with PMDD.
  • Mood Swings:Emotional fluctuations are a hallmark of both PMDD and ADHD. These fluctuations can range from heightened irritability to bouts of sadness or even anxiety. Managing these mood swings can be especially challenging, as they can impact a person’s overall emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships.
  • Restlessness:A constant need for movement or a feeling of restlessness is a notable symptom shared between PMDD and ADHD. This inner restlessness can manifest as an inability to sit still or a persistent sense of edginess. It can significantly affect a person’s ability to relax and engage in tasks that require a calm and focused demeanor.

The Role of Hormones in PMDD and ADHD

PMDD affects hormonal shifts and intensifies symptoms. The luteal phase, occurring two weeks before menstruation, sees a surge in progesterone. If pregnancy doesn’t happen, progesterone levels drop, leading to pronounced PMDD symptoms.

This surge affects various physiological and psychological processes. This alters serotonin levels in the brain, which is crucial for mood regulation. These fluctuations contribute to emotional symptoms like irritability, sadness, and anxiety in PMDD.

Additionally, these hormonal changes interact with ADHD’s neurobiology. ADHD already involves differences in neurotransmitter function, particularly dopamine and norepinephrine. PMDD’s hormonal shifts may further impact these neurotransmitters, potentially worsening inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity symptoms.

Strategies for Management of ADHD and PMDD

Structured Routines: Establishing a structured daily routine provides a reliable framework for people living with ADHD and PMDD. This approach helps in organizing tasks, allocating time effectively, and prioritizing responsibilities. By incorporating set schedules and routines, individuals can mitigate the challenges of impulsivity and inattention. Furthermore, a structured routine fosters a sense of predictability and control, reducing anxiety and enhancing overall productivity.

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Mindfulness encourages present-moment awareness, helping individuals navigate stress, depression, anxiety, or mood fluctuations. Techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can promote emotional regulation and provide a sense of calm.

Regular Exercise: Regular exercise is highly beneficial for those with PMDD and ADHD. It positively affects neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are vital for mood and focus. Exercise enhances cognitive functions, decreases impulsivity, and boosts overall well-being. Additionally, it supports better sleep quality, leading to improved attention and emotional stability.

Nutrition and Sleep Hygiene: Maintaining a balanced diet and prioritizing proper sleep hygiene are fundamental components of managing symptoms associated with PMDD and ADHD. Additionally, adhering to a consistent sleep routine aids in regulating circadian rhythms, ensuring restorative rest, and minimizing disruptions in attention and mood.

Therapeutic Interventions: Therapeutic interventions, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), provide crucial tools for those with PMDD and ADHD. CBT equips individuals with practical coping mechanisms and strategies. It helps reshape negative thoughts, build practical problem-solving skills, and improve emotional regulation. Regular therapy sessions lead to a deeper understanding and tailored techniques for symptom management.

Medication Management: Consulting a healthcare professional about medication options is crucial for finding relief from PMDD and ADHD symptoms. Stimulant medications or non-stimulant options can address core ADHD symptoms like inattention and impulsivity. Additionally, hormonal therapies or hormonal birth control may be recommended for people experiencing PMDD symptoms. Collaborating with a health care provider ensures a personalized approach.


Are there any specific triggers that worsen symptoms in individuals with both PMDD and ADHD?

While triggers can vary from person to person, factors like stress, inadequate sleep, hormonal changes, and specific dietary choices can contribute to the symptoms in individuals with both PMDD and ADHD. However, it’s important to note that dietary changes alone are typically not a substitute for comprehensive treatment.

How does PMDD impact cognitive functions in individuals with ADHD?

PMDD-related symptoms, particularly mood swings and irritability, can affect cognitive functions such as memory, decision-making, and information processing in individuals with ADHD.

Where can individuals find support and resources for PMDD and ADHD?

Various resources are available, including support groups, online communities (like The Mighty!), organizations like CHADD, and platforms like ADDitude magazine. Seeking guidance from mental health professionals with expertise in both PMDD and ADHD can also provide valuable support.

Getty image by Ben Akiba

Originally published: November 1, 2023
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