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PMS & PMDD Myths Debunked

Turns out you’re not just moody.

Thanks to numerous pop-culture references and a generally apathetic attitude towards premenstrual mental health, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) has been reduced to the butt of plenty jokes about women being moody on their periods. This has made it increasingly difficult for people to seek medical treatment for serious PMS symptoms, as it’s hard to take yourself seriously (and get to a doctor) when you’re belittled for experiencing PMS in the first place.

Debunking the following PMS & PMDD myths:

PMS is just in your head

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is actually a host of physical and emotional symptoms that occur before the onset of menstruation (hence the ‘pre’). These can include tender or sore breasts, bloating, fatigue, irritability, and sadness. For some people, these occur two weeks before their period, while others experience PMS symptoms closer to a week, or a couple of days before they bleed. 

Mood swings don’t happen if you don’t menstruate

Premenstrual symptoms are different for everybody. While one person might experience rapid mood changes, someone else might get a bloated tummy. As this happens when you menstruate, logic follows that if you don’t get periods, you shouldn’t get mood swings or other premenstrual symptoms. However, the opposite can be true: if you have been diagnosed with amenorrhea (the medical term for absent periods) you might still experience mood swings and feel enormous physical discomfort, even if these symptoms aren’t isolated to the menstrual phase of your menstrual cycle.

PMS is no big deal

While hormones can make you react differently to or feel stronger about certain things when you’re on your period, reducing PMS to a mere mood swing can delegitimize the reality of feeling more irritable or upset. Your anger, sadness, irritability or grumpiness may be caused by your period and that doesn’t make these symptoms any less real. And yes, that means there is absolutely zero need to fight the urge to curl up on your sofa and cry to something soppy on Netflix next time you’re PMSing — we’ve all been there.

Premenstrual Syndrome can’t impact your mental health

Tell that to my tears (or my hanger, or my simmering silence). Your menstrual cycle can impact your mental health, whether you have underlying mental health conditions or not. Blame it on hormones if you want to, but many people report feeling lower moods, sadness or increased aggression and anger before they start their period.

PMS only happens when you menstruate

PMS actually happens before you menstruate, which is why many people who have PMS-related depression or PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) experience a cessation in their symptoms as they start to bleed. That your period can make you feel better may sound counterintuitive, but plenty of people who experience intense PMS find that they feel a lot happier while they menstruate (as opposed to the flames PMS shows them before). 

PMDD isn’t a real condition

Incorrect. Like any mental health condition that is listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a diagnostic tool that mental health practitioners use to diagnose disorders like depression, ADD (attention deficit disorder) and anxiety, PMDD is a legitimate mental health condition and should be treated as such. 

PMDD is characterised by the following:

● Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or depression.

● Mood swings (rapid changes in mood)

● Appetite changes (either eating more or less)

● Changes to sleep (insomnia or sleeping more)

● A marked decrease in things that once interested you

● Fatigue, tiredness, and irritability

● Agitation, anger and arguing with people

● Problems with concentrating

● Anxiety and panic attacks

These symptoms are cyclical, which means that they are aligned to your menstrual cycle. You may experience symptoms in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, and PMDD symptoms usually dissipate after your period. If you are experiencing the above symptoms or your PMS is worsening, please consider chatting to a doctor.

PMDD is just super bad PMS

Yes, PMDD is a severe type of premenstrual syndrome, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. We urge you to seek urgent medical attention if your changing moods, menstrual-related depression or anxiety becomes unmanageable over the course of your period. If you find yourself more anxious than usual, having panic attacks or depressive/suicidal thoughts during your period, it’s high time you speak to your doctor – no one should have to suffer in silence!

PMDD is not treatable

Err, *buzz*, wrong! PMDD is a treatable condition. Although it may seem daunting at first, you really need to seek medical attention for symptoms of PMDD. Whether your condition requires medication, lifestyle changes or therapy, or a combination of all three, is up to you and your doctor, but just know that this is a recognised condition and there is help available for you.

PMS can’t make depression worse

We really wish this one was true. If you have pre-existing mental health conditions like anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) or depression, it is highly possible that your symptoms intensify over the course of your period. Many people report feeling a definite reduction in their ability to concentrate before and while they’re menstruating (phew, it’s not just us!). It’s also possible that if you experience irregular bleeding, menorrhagia (heavy bleeding) or dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), you may struggle with additional fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety.

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