By Jo Waters
Last updated at 11:32 PM on 18th July 2011
Kirsty Baranowski stood in the middle of the road hammering on a taxi driver’s windscreen. She was incandescent with rage because he’d suddenly pulled out in front of her.
The outburst was completely out of character, but for 20 years she had been battling with violent mood swings in the run-up to her period.
‘Normally, I was mild mannered,’ says Kirsty, 41, who lives in Southfields, South-West London, with her children, Alexander, ten, and Sophia, nine.
‘But in the week before my period the slightest thing could set me off. It was as if a red mist would descend and I’d just lose it.’
Kirsty’s monthly cycle would wreak havoc on her family life and resulted in the breakdown of her marriage.
‘As soon as my husband Andrew came home from work we’d have a blazing row. He was bewildered by my behaviour and didn’t know how to help me.
‘I felt wretched, too, because of breast pain and bloating — my stomach would swell up so much I’d look pregnant. I’d also get painful migraines. There were only seven days a month, after my period finished, when I felt normal.’
It would take 20 years for Kirsty to arrive at a correct diagnosis: she was suffering from Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). This is a severe form of pre-menstrual syndrome and is estimated to affect between 500,000 and a million British women.
Despite its prevalence, experts claim many women are being wrongly diagnosed as suffering from psychiatric illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Symptoms of PMDD include persistent anger and irritability, moodiness, being out of control, intense feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness, crying for no reason, difficulty concentrating and even suicidal thoughts.
‘I’d had terrible mood swings and migraines since I was 15,’ said Kirsty
‘Ninety per cent of the women I see in my clinic have been diagnosed with depression that has not responded to psychiatric treatment,’ says Professor John Studd, a retired professor of gynaecology at Imperial College, London, who runs the London PMS and Menopause Clinic in Harley Street.
‘Some have been misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric illness for 20 years or more and been treated with antidepressants, mood-stabilising drugs, mental hospital in-patient treatment and electro-convulsive therapy.’