Background: Use of intermittent dosing strategies for the treatment of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) highlights the need for detailed empirical data on the onset, duration and pattern of symptom expression in women suffering from PMDD.
Method: Data were analyzed from 276 women who met DSM-IV criteria for PMDD and prospectively charted two menstrual cycles prior to commencing sertraline treatment. The presence and severity of PMDD symptoms were measured using the Daily Record of Severity of Problems (DRSP).
Results: The most frequent PMDD symptoms (moderate-to-severe for > or = 3 days) included anger/irritability (76%), anxiety/tension (71%), tired/lethargic (58%), and mood swings (58%). Mean DRSP scores peaked at day -2 (2 days prior to the onset of menses), but the within-patient day of onset of PMDD-level symptoms was highly variable, differing from cycle-to-cycle by > or = 4 days in 45% of women. Similarly, the within-patient duration of PMDD symptoms varied from cycle-to-cycle by 3 or more days in > or = 50% of women. Depending on the criteria used, 1 day after the onset of menstruation, 34-46% of women continued to report moderate to severe symptoms.
Limitation: Women in this sample were recruited for participation in a treatment study, and the results may not generalize to women with PMDD in the community.
Conclusion: The results of this analysis found significant within-patient variability in the time-to-onset and offset of PMDD symptoms, as well as their duration. The temporal pattern and high degree of within-patient variability across menstrual cycles of PMDD symptoms may have treatment implications.