Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!
PMDD is a more chronic and severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that often results in psychological symptoms such as irritability, anger, fatigue, moodiness, insomnia, paranoia, difficulty concentrating, and more.
Other PMDD symptoms include respiratory, eye, skin, and fluid retention problems such as allergies; infections; vision changes; ankle, hand, and feet swelling; and acne as well as gastrointestinal, neurologic, and vascular symptoms like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fainting, easy bruising, muscle spasms, and painful menstruation.
What’s frustrating about any and all of those symptoms is they can easily fall under a variety of different disorders like bipolar disorder, depression, thyroid condition, and anxiety, making PMDD hard to diagnose for some people with periods.
I’d also like to add that PMDD feels even harder to diagnose because people with periods have been told over and over again that our menstrual cycle will make us overly emotional. Modern Family is but one example of media turning this experience into a joke, and it feels like yet another way for patriarchal societies and men to dismiss women and people with periods.
My own periods usually arrive after an onslaught of cramps, breakouts, and mood swings—typically high highs and low lows with a spattering of extra irritability and sensitivity thrown in just to keep things spicy. When I was 18, I decided to go on birth control. After just one month of being on birth control, I noticed that the specific brand I was using amplified my mood swings and even made me depressed. This can be common for many people, and I quickly asked my doctor if we could try out a different brand.
A few weeks ago, I emailed my doctor because the pharmacy gave me the wrong brand of birth control. I knew it was a brand that exacerbated my period symptoms because of my past experiences. But I have to admit, I felt silly having to say to my doctor, “I need a different birth control brand because I know this one makes me moody.” And I was annoyed at myself for feeling silly about drawing attention to real concerns. Adding fuel to the fire, my doctor never followed up with me; she simply emailed the pharmacy and the problem was resolved.
But is the problem resolved? Should my doctor have looked into whether or not I’m one of the estimated 5.5% of women who develop PMDD symptoms in their twenties?
The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health notes that PMDD can be distinguished from other mood disorders because of its cyclical nature. Typically, symptoms will occur during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle and there will be a grace period in which people with PMDD don’t feel any symptoms at all. The Center suggests helping your doctor confirm the diagnosis by charting your symptoms daily.
When diagnosed with PMDD, there are a variety of treatments, including lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) also offers resources for those with PMDD.
I’m disappointed that people with periods aren’t always taught about PMDD. Because many of the symptoms are psychological, I feel like there should be more awareness around this disorder; but because many of the symptoms are psychological, I can’t say I’m surprised many people don’t know more about PMDD. Emotional women have long been discredited and overlooked by society—unless they’re being used as the butt of a joke. And these biases have often been reinforced by those in the medical industry.
Thankfully, the IAPMD is helping to raise awareness of this disorder, encouraging people with periods like me to advocate for themselves in their doctor’s office.
If your period is painful, mentally and/or physically, there could very well be a medical reason for it, and you deserve to know that reason.
I encourage everyone to take care of themselves. In your doctor’s office, this could mean being bold and advocating for your needs.
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