Is PMDD a Mental Disorder?

Anyone woman who has lived with severe PMS knows it's not a joke. But there's now some intense debate in the medical community about whether or not Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, should be considered a mental disorder. As of May 2013, PMDD was officially classified as a distinct mental disorder in psychiatry's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But some people are warning that this could spell bad news for women in the long run.

According to a report today on NPR, psychiatrists define PMDD as "a fairly rare syndrome that prompts disabling emotional and sometimes physical reactions" to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. Symptoms typically onset during the span between ovulation and the first day of a woman's period and include severe depression and anxiety. These symptoms more closely resemble depressive and anxiety disorders than run of the mill PMS. It's estimated that PMDD affects between 3 and 8 percent of women having periods (though some say it's as little as 1 percent).

Not everyone thinks that PMDD should actually be considered a distinct condition. Sarah Gehlert, a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis, told NPR that she worries the diagnosis could be used against women.

But for women who suffer from intense emotional reactions once a month, the diagnosis feels real enough. As one of them told NPR: "There comes a point where you need to realize there is a name for what you're going through. It helps you to realize that you're not alone in your struggles."

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