That Time of the Month: Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Updated: May 3
Let’s face it: periods are really annoying and pretty much no one likes having them. For those of us with regular periods, every month or so the lining of our uterus will shed because a fertilized egg has not implanted itself to the uterine walls. This shedding causes bleeding from the vagina for around 2-7 days, depending on certain factors. The menstrual cycle can cause cramping, bloating, migraines, and moodiness (who wouldn’t be moody?!). And then the cycle continues. Sounds peachy, right?
It’s no wonder that women and vagina owners (‘vagina owners’ referring to people with vaginas who do not identify as women. Some men have vaginas, and likewise some women don’t have vaginas) don’t exactly greet this time of the month with much enthusiasm. At best, a period’s arrival can assuage fears of pregnancy which is great. But besides alerting you to the fact you’re not pregnant, periods can be very unpleasant for lots of people.
PMS or premenstrual syndrome describes the physical and emotional symptoms many women experience leading up to their periods. According to a 2006 study on premenstrual disorders in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, 90% of women experience some of the aforementioned symptoms during ovulation. This is a real problem many women face and should not be trivialized or looked over. However, in this blog, I don’t want to focus on premenstrual syndrome. I want to talk about PMS’s more dangerous cousin: premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as its own diagnosis in 2013 under the category of depressive disorders. So the psychiatric community recognizes the validity and severity of this disorder. But what exactly is it? According to the DSM-5 the essential features of PMDD are, “the expression of mood lability, irritability, dysphoria, and anxiety symptoms that occur repeatedly during the pre-menstrual phase of the cycle and remit around the onset of menses or shortly thereafter.” Symptoms include anger, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty in concentration, insomnia, along with many others. PMDD has basically all the symptoms you would expect to see in a depressed person. PMDD is serious and not just some silly ‘women’s issue’ to be ignored. This is everyone’s issue. According to Harvard Medical School, about 15% of sufferers of PMDD will attempt suicide, which is horrifying.
We’ve already established that periods can be a pain, and are annoying, and often cause issues in mood. But your menstrual cycle should not make you want to die, or to feel helpless and lose all interest in things you love. I think PMDD is easily missed and not talked about often because women assume they’re just being overdramatic and this is just a normal part of PMS.
Periods are already extremely stigmatized and girls are taught to hide their periods, to be ashamed of them. Tampons are hidden in long sleeves on hurried walks to the bathroom, girls wrinkle their noses at puberty videos explaining that yes, they too, will experience the joys of becoming a woman, including bleeding every month. Periods are shrouded in shame and stigma when they’re just a normal part of being human and owning a vagina.
I think we do everyone an injustice when we don’t talk about these things. Women’s experiences should be listened to, and a woman’s moodiness should not be written off as PMS, when in fact it could be something much more serious. This is a mental health issue, but it’s also a women’s issue. PMDD causes so much suffering and drives it sufferers to suicide. This isn’t something we can just sweep under the rug. Treatments are available for PMDD but depression is stigmatized enough as is without it being tied to a person’s menstrual cycle.
PMDD needs to be spoken about more and it should be more well known about, both among the general population and with medical professionals. If you think you might have PMDD or any other kind of depressive disorder, please seek help. You don’t have to live the way you are. I know how dark and hopeless the path ahead may seem, but there is light out there and you can reach it.
Image credit: netdoctor.co.uk