Psychological Medicine

Original Article

Prevalence, incidence and stability of premenstrual dysphoric disorder in the community

H.-U.  WITTCHEN  c1 a1, E.  BECKER  a1, R.  LIEB  a1 and P.  KRAUSE  a1
a1 From the Technical University of Dresden, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Dresden; and Max-Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany


Background. Despite an abundance of clinical research on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, few epidemiological data provide estimates of the prevalence, incidence, co-morbidity, stability and correlates of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in the community.

Aims. To describe the prevalence, incidence, 12 co-morbidity factors and correlates of threshold and subthreshold PMDD in a community sample of young women.

Methods. Findings are based on prospective–longitudinal community survey of 1488 women aged 14–24, who were followed-up over a period of 48 months (follow-up, N = 1251) as part of the EDSP sample. Diagnostic assessments were based on the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) and its 12-month PMDD diagnostic module administered by clinical interviewers. Diagnoses were calculated using DSM-IV algorithms, but daily ratings of symptoms, as required, were not available.

Results. The baseline 12-month prevalence of DSM-IV PMDD was 5·8%. Application of the diagnostic exclusion rules with regard to concurrent major depression and dysthymia decreased the rate only slightly (5·3%). An additional 18·6% were ‘near-threshold’ cases, mostly because they failed to meet the mandatory impairment criterion. Over the follow-up period only few new PMDD cases were observed: cumulative lifetime incidence was 7·4%. PMDD syndrome was stable across 48 months with <10% complete remissions among baseline PMDD cases. The 12-month and lifetime co-morbidity rates were high (anxiety disorders 47·4%, mood disorders 22·9%; somatoform 28·4%), only 26·5% had no other mental disorder. Particularly high odds ratios were found with nicotine dependence and PTSD. In terms of correlates increased rates of 4-weeks impairment days, high use of general health and mental health services, and increased rates of suicide attempts were found.

Conclusion. In this sample of adolescents and young adults, premenstrual symptoms were widespread. However, DSM-IV PMDD was considerably less prevalent. PMDD is a relatively stable and impairing condition, with high rates of health service utilization, increased suicidality and substantial co-morbidity.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, Technical University of Dresden, Institute of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Chemnitzer Str. 46 D-011187 Dresden, Germany.