Pre Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder
“It’s like building a sand castle of good habits, positive moods and a loving personality, then waiting for it all to get swept away, leaving depression, anger, hopelessness and anxiety. The wave recedes. You begin to rebuild, just as a new wave crashes.”
From changing perspectives of experiencing reverse culture shock to stress to depression to pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, it’s not easy. There are truths about menstruators' premenstrual experiences that reframe femininity and what it is to be a ‘womxn’. PMDD or pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder is a much severe version of PMS. The symptoms are much worse and can impact lives seriously. The difference? PMS does not interfere with a womxn’s quality of life, relationships or ability to attend places. Its symptoms are easily managed and do not require antidepressants. Furthermore, PMS is not classified as a mental illness. PMDD is. It straddles two areas which have historically carried stigma – mental health and menstruation- a double whammy! There is no doubt this has held so many womxn back from looking for help and support.
In simpler words, it’s a monthly ‘self-destruct button’. It’s not a one-size-fits-all disorder. Some womxn have periods, some deal with PMS, while some battle a period of 12-20 days like a psychedelic trip gone wrong. Some say it’s like a rollercoaster they didn’t buy tickets for.
This term might be new to many of you. It affects around 1 in 20 womxn, and yet, is relatively unknown. It is unacceptable that these womxn are being heavily misdiagnosed as ‘bipolar’ or even dismissed under the tag of PMS. There are little to almost no PMDD-specific support services available. It’s a real medical condition, and is tremendously hard to deal with. Tracing the cause of PMDD has been a task, but it is attributed to be an abnormal reaction to hormonal changes during menstruation. We can’t expect normal womxn to have it all figured out when it still is a mystery to experts.
The symptoms are usually severe and debilitating, interfering with all daily activities. Extreme mood swings end up interfering with work and damaging relationships. Those who experience PMDD are often unable to function at their normal capacity. The constant symptoms include-
Depression, hopelessness, anger, anxiety, tension, difficulty in concentrating, change in appetite, feeling out of control, sleep problems, muscle spasms, headaches and hot flashes.
None of which any of us want to experience for half a month, every month. Also, these aren’t signs of weakness, but rather signs of trying to stay strong.
If it sounds like you or someone you know, this light bulb moment is your hint to support people to identify if they have PMDD, and also to raise awareness.
This is a chronic condition that calls for treatments that include medication and lifestyle modifications. Measures include-
· Decreasing sugar and increasing protein in your diet
Other than these, take it easy on the days leading up to your periods. Find relaxing activities like reading, watching a movie, going for a walk or having a good, warm bath.
Thankfully, the disorder usually bids adieu after pregnancy or menopause.
The best thing to say to someone you know suffering from PMDD is whatever lets them know you understand they don’t choose to be that way, and that it isn’t just an excuse. Shining a light and playing our part in raising awareness about this lesser known disorder is the least we can do.
PMDD needs to be a very gentle and sensitive part of our conversations about menstrual well-being. As is always said, awareness starts from education. Young womxn and trans men must be empowered to know their bodies, trust their judgements, know when something’s wrong, and push for care if needed. We need to keep in mind that we’re half of the society and we can change the society. What the world needs is more of receptive, sensitive, compassionate, empathic and connected energy. We, as those who are capable, have that within us and owe it to ourselves to fight for it.
For all those who have been dealing with it alone, reach out. Nobody knows what’s going on inside you better than you do. Nobody knows your mind or body better. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. This is a part of you for now, but it doesn’t define you. Time will pass, these moods will pass, and you will eventually be yourself again.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by Monica Loya