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PMDD & HSP: Is there a connection between Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and Being a Highly Sensitive Person?

Do you ever feel too sensitive for the world?

Yep, me too. Let’s talk about it.

I have a history of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and work with people with PMDD every day, all day. I observe time and time again that folks with PMDD are often highly sensitive and highly empathetic. Sometimes they’re also very intuitive and creative.

Some identify as HSPs (highly sensitive person), neurodivergent, or have a diagnosis of ADHD or ASD.

And it’s not just observation on my part. There’s been a lot of buzz on the topic of PMDD, autism, neurodivergence, ADHD, and sensory processing. In my small corner of the Internet, it feels like everyone is talking about this article, which states that PMDD disproportionately affects people with ADHD and autism, at a rate of 46% and 92% respectively. 

The International Association of Premenstrual Disorders put out this statement commenting on the article as well. You can read it here. The consensus? As always, more research is needed. There’s currently at least one active study working to examine the connection.  


It's not just me. And it's not just you.

This topic has struck a chord in our PMDD Revealed Community. Someone posted this question in our community:

“Has PMDD made anyone else hyper-aware of your needs? Almost to the point where it’s hard to connect with many people because they’re just on a different planet? I’ve tried to push myself to socialize a little bit more because I love a good conversation, but around the wrong people, it’s just the opposite effect.”

And the chat lit up with responses like this:

And this:

Can you relate? And while research is developing, know that your personal experience is valid. 


What's the cause of being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

Being highly sensitive is not a disease or disorder.


Due to innate biological differences, a Highly Sensitive Person is more attuned to the subtleties in themselves and around them. They process information at a deeper level.


The differences may stem, in part, from genetics that influence neurotransmitters along with stronger activation of parts of the brain that impact processing and awareness.  HSPs also have more active mirror neurons that help us understand what others are feeling, which contributes to a higher level of empathy.

These unique attributes contribute to HSPs being highly perceptive, insightful, and intuitive. However, HSPs are also more prone to stress and overwhelm due to higher activation in the amygdala portion of the brain. The result is a more easily overloaded the nervous system without the right tools and support.


Are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

Being a highly sensitive person affects approximately 15-20% of the population. Are you one of them?  Here are a few signs you might be an HSP: 

  1. You're deeply unsettled by violence and cruelty in the media and even in movies
  2. You frequently feel emotionally exhausted from absorbing others feelings
  3. Time pressure and feeling rushed really gets to you
  4. You need extra time alone and often feel the need to withdraw
  5. You tend to jump easily or sudden loud noises startle you
  6. You think and process information deeply
  7. You can't stand scratchy, restrictive, or tight clothing
  8. You are sensitive to pain and often have headaches, body aches, etc.
  9. Your often have vivid daydreams
  10. Conflict and change are upsetting and take extra time to adjust
  11. You're highly perceptive and notice things that others don't

*Adapted from Highly Sensitive Refuge website.


Here are some examples of what it feels like for me. It may be totally different for you. 

  • Feeling like I’ve been physically and emotionally hit by a truck when something tragic happens in the world and I see it in the news. 
  • Being able to walk into a room and sense everyone’s energy, emotions, and overall vibe, even before anyone has said anything. 
  • Feeling really overwhelmed whenever I go on social media… like I have a bullshit detector and can sense who is being genuine or not, and having ZERO tolerance for it.
  • Often being referred to as the person that friends and family can lean on when they’re in a tough spot because I just know the right thing to say or do without being pushy. 
  • THE NOISE. Sometimes the noise in my house or environment is just too much and I feel like I’m going to boil over. It could be something obvious like kids yelling or something subtle like my husband chewing.
    • Exhibit A: Me wearing my 2nd grader’s SpiderMan noise-canceling headphones this weekend.



Being a Highly Sensitive Person is Gift

It's common for highly sensitive people to feel shame or like something is wrong with them for being "too sensitive." This often leads to feeling misunderstood or alone since this way of experiencing the world is unique.

I even asked my husband once, “When you walk into a room, can you feel and sense everyone’s energy?” His response, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”   I’m grateful and honored to have founded a community of others who simply get it. No explanation needed, as you saw in the posts above. 


I've come to believe that being a highly sensitive person is a gift. HOWEVER, it’s a gift that comes with some strings attached. 


I’ve realized that being both highly sensitive and highly intuitive make me an effective practitioner and coach. I can easily listen to others, understand both what they’re saying and not saying, and attune to their needs. 


My special sauce is that I combine deep functional medicine & nutrition science with compassionate and trauma-informed coaching. This is my calling and I couldn’t do it without my highly sensitive nature. 


Yet, this gift left unchecked and without the right types of support, it can lead to…

…burnout and depression

…feeling like something is wrong with me

…avoidant patterns and wanting to hide from the world


How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person

So let’s start the conversation and brainstorm together how to protect this gift… because I’d bet you have it too. 

The first step is attuning to yourself and noticing the overwhelm. When you notice signs and symptoms that your nervous system is overloaded, ask yourself:

  • Am I doing too much?
  • When is the last time I took a break?
  • Am I people pleasing and placing others needs above my own?


From there, you can start to make an intentional plan. Everyone's support plan and toolbox will be different. These questions can help you start to identify your needs:

  • How and when can I schedule intentional time for rest and reflection?
  • How and when do I need to slow the sensory input in certain situations?
  • Where do I need to set different boundaries?


For me this looks like:

  1. Regularly doing a news detox. 
    • There are times where I won’t check those outlets for days on end. If there’s something major happening in the world, someone will tell me about it and it’s all ok. 
    • On a daily basis, I listen to a bite-sized news podcast that’s less than 10 minutes to stay informed rather than spending hours online.
  2. Spending VERY limited time on social media.
    • I’m very intentional about social media use. I spend very little time daily on social media and when I do, it’s for things that help me feel uplifted or fill a creative need. 
    • I rarely Doom Scroll. If I catch myself doing it, I immediately check in with myself and ask, “What am I avoiding and what do I need right now?” Then I do that thing instead.
  3. Checking in with myself often, all cycle long.
    • I’m not just highly sensitive during my luteal phase, although it’s more pronounced then. All month long I’m checking in on my battery levels and bringing in tools and extra rest as I need to. 
    • The tools are simple: Noise-canceling headphones, time outside, movement, time alone, laying in the dark, swinging in a hammock and looking at the trees, EFT tapping, etc. 
  4. Unconditional permission to meet my needs, all cycle long.
    • I know that I can either cancel plans that don’t feel aligned, or choose to support myself through it if I don’t want to cancel. Either way, my nervous system feels safe knowing that I have it’s back. 
  5. Scheduling support.
    • I regularly meet with a coach for my own nervous system and menstrual work. Since I’m providing support to so many people, I need to receive support myself so I can keep doing the work that I do. You can’t pour from an empty cup!


How will you protect and harness your gift? With the proper tools and support, your highly sensitive nature becomes an asset and perhaps a part of your calling in the world.


As an HSP with lived experience of PMDD myself, we get it. Our method honors (and works with) your highly sensitive nature while digging into the root factors of your debilitating symptoms.

Schedule a Strategy Session to decode your mood & menstrual challenges, 1-on-1 with our team. Click here to snag a time. 


DISCLAIMER: All information is meant for education only and is not intended for the diagnosis or treatment of disease, nor does it serve as a substitute for medical treatment or advice. You should seek the advice of a physician with any questions or concerns regarding personal medical conditions.


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