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Women who experience significant premenstrual symptoms differ in the extent to which these symptoms cause cyclical impairment. This study clarifies the type and number of symptoms that best predict premenstrual impairment in a sample of women undergoing prospective assessment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in a research setting. Central research goals were to determine (1) which emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms of PMDD are uniquely associated with premenstrual impairment, and (2) how many cyclical symptoms optimally predict the presence of a clinically significant premenstrual elevation of impairment.
A total of 267 naturally cycling women recruited for retrospective report of premenstrual emotional symptoms completed daily symptom reports using the Daily Record of Severity of Problems (DRSP) and occupational, recreational, and relational impairment for 1–4 menstrual cycles (N = 563 cycles).
Multilevel regression revealed that emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms differ in their associations with impairment. The core emotional symptoms of PMDD were predictors of impairment, but not after accounting for secondary psychological symptoms, which were the most robust predictors. The optimal number of premenstrual symptoms for predicting clinically significant premenstrual impairment was four.
Results enhance our understanding of the type and number of premenstrual symptoms associated with premenstrual impairment among women being evaluated for PMDD in research contexts. Additional work is needed to determine whether cognitive symptoms should receive greater attention in the study of PMDD, and to revisit the usefulness of the five-symptom diagnostic threshold.
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