PMDD: A Hidden Issue

Brooke Zwick - Teen Aspect - August 28th, 2022

 

6 million people worldwide suffer from PMDD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (i). Many readers may not be aware of this disorder, and that's the problem. Menstruators all around the world with PMDD often experience severe depression, anxiety, self-image issues, and a slew of other psychological symptoms without adequate access to definitive diagnosis and treatment. These can show up the week before menstruation and even a few days into menstruation. However, most of the time the symptoms are bypassed as “just PMS”. The truth is, it’s way more severe than PMS and is not easily recognizable.


Most menstruators experience common premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, mood swings, and increased irritability.


However, PMDD is characterized by PMS symptoms that are more severe and continue for a longer duration of time. These symptoms include anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, and serious fatigue (ii). PMDD can cause a person to become debilitated the week before or the week of their period. It’s incredibly frustrating to experience, let alone try to explain to family, friends, and even medical professionals.


For decades, women have dealt with the prejudice from medical professionals that their issues aren’t real or aren’t as severe as the patient claims. Especially in the case of female reproductive health, patients are often dismissed. According to a study run by Duke Health, 1 in 5 women feel that they’ve been ignored or dismissed by medical professionals (iii). This could lead to the fear that a psychological issue could be seen as the patient being “over dramatic” or “overly emotional”. In reality, these patients are struggling with an issue that is little known about and even the patient themselves may question the validity of what they are experiencing.


Not only is PMDD a hidden issue, but research has yielded limited information on both the cause and treatment of PMDD. It’s unknown what causes the disorder but some research indicates a potential link to both hormones and diet. Additional research is needed to determine the efficacy of these recommendations. Some professionals recommend a change in diet, antidepressants, and therapy to help cope with the monthly struggles that many face. The focus lies on more awareness and research on PMDD. Many people face the symptoms alone and are at high risk for suicidal ideation. Another potential strategy to improve the mental health of PMDD sufferers might be the formation of support groups. By normalizing conversations and being aware when it is more than “just PMS” we can allow room for those with the disorder to feel validated in what they are experiencing.

References

(i) PMDD Facts & Statistics: The recovery village. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. (2022, May 26). Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/pmdd/pmdd-statistics/

(ii) Premenstrual dysphoric disorder: Symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9132-premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd

(iii) Paulsen, E., & Paulsen, E. (n.d.). Recognizing, addressing unintended gender bias in patient care. Duke Health Referring Physicians. Retrieved August 13, 2022, from https://physicians.dukehealth.org/articles/recognizing-addressing-unintended-gender-bias-patient-care

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