Thursday, July 10, 2014

PMS (Premenstural Syndrome) - Day 1: Separating Fact From Fiction!

I was wondering what to write about this week and couldn't decide on a topic. I asked my husband for some suggestions and without hesitation, he responded "PMS"!  Actually, he has encouraged me to write about Premenstrual Syndrome for quite a while. Although it has been many, many years since I struggled with PMS, I don't think my husband has forgotten how much he suffered through it with me! All kidding aside, I'm going to take a  few weeks and blog about it. I believe there are many females who struggle with this disorder and who are silent about it because of the lingering shame, embarrassment, and confusion which accompany its symptoms and manifestations. Let's get started by Separating Fact From Fiction!
What Is It?
First of all, PMS is real! Please don't panic when I share this with you, but in the early 1990's PMS was included in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder - PMDD, and in the 2000 DSM IV (R) (under the section for further study). In the 2013 DSM V, it has been moved to the main body. Over the years, there has been on-going heated debate about its inclusion in the DSM's and its ensuing personal as well as professional ramifications for females. As a woman, I was (and am) deeply concerned about the interpretations and implications of PMDD being included in a manual of mental disorders, and yet, because PMDD has been misunderstood and misdiagnosed for centuries, I was (and am) relieved to see it legitimized as a disorder.

When I was first diagnosed with PMS in the late 1980's, my flaw in character was largely used in the context of cruel jokes or viewed as an excuse for behaving badly, or both!

Even after I began educating myself about PMS, writing about it, and speaking on it, I was told by many professionals in various fields that I was demon possessed, suffered from other mental disorders, or filled with sin, and I was confronted with countless  ludicrous diagnoses or unfounded beliefs!  

Thus, for PMDD to be recognized as a medical disorder meant that committed caring professionals might begin the necessary work to eradicate the stigma, secrecy, and shame associated with it. And most importantly, as a deeper more accurate understanding of PMDD was developed, so would there be improved assessment and treatment. 

Secondly, PMDD has a physiological basis for causation with symptoms manifesting both
physiologically and psychologically!
Although studies do vary, for most females there is an imbalance of progesterone in relation to the amount of estrogen present in the body premenstrually. Research also suggests that along with reproductive hormone imbalance, two of the brain's neurotransmitters - endorphins and serotonin - play an important role. It is the physical symptoms that females feel more open to talk about - the headaches, backaches, bloating, fatigue, breast tenderness, and increased hunger. The psychological symptoms are the ones that women tend to avoid admitting. They include feelings of depression, tension, anxiety, irritability, forgetfulness, abusiveness, crying, confusion, frustration, mood swings, uncontrollable rage, guilt, and thoughts of suicide.

When I was suffering severely with PMS, I thought I was going crazy!  Why? Because although I had both the physical and psychological symptoms for two or more weeks a month, during the rest of the month I felt great! It was like I was two people!  I didn't understand what was going on with me! However, I did experience horrible shame and guilt over the things I had said and done, especially toward my loved ones.

 And although I would promise myself and them that my blow-ups and deep depression would not surface again, the next month would roll around and the roller-coaster would start up again!
  PMDD is cyclical in nature

Next time, we will look at what that means and how it is critical in assessing PMDD, as well as ruling out other disorders or illnesses. For now, whether you struggle with PMDD slightly or severely, know that you are not alone!  And....

if your PMDD has been controlling you, it's time to take charge over it!

Take Charge of Your Health!

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