A global awareness effort will kick off this month to raise the profile of a ‘life-threatening’, widely-overlooked disorder that affects one in 20 menstruating people. 

April marks the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) awareness month, which aims to educate people and build advocacy of this little-known condition. 

PMDD is a suspected genetic disorder that affects mental and menstrual health.

Symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and many others which occur in the 1-2 weeks before the menstrual period each month. 

HeraldScotland:

Unlike in premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which affects most individuals with periods, symptoms are often severe and debilitating, affecting school and work, relationships, and quality of life. 

One of the most common symptoms of PMDD is suicidal ideation, with 30 per cent of sufferers reporting they’ve attempted to end their life in PMDD crisis.

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An estimated 5-10% of women and assigned female/male at birth individuals (AFAB) of reproductive age have PMDD. This number does not account for missed or misdiagnosis nor women whose ovulatory cycle is suppressed by hormonal, chemical, or surgical means.

PMDD impacts a staggering 60 million worldwide but has only been recognized medically in the last decade, leaving many undiagnosed and in the dark. 

HeraldScotland:

The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) hosts the month-long celebration. The 2021 theme is “Many Hands Make Light Work” with the hashtag #PMDDAwarenessMonth2021, to emphasize each of our roles in bringing light to PMDD. 

Sandi MacDonald, co-founder and executive director at IAPMD, said: “We fight for a world where women and AFAB individuals with PMDD can not only survive, but thrive.”

“It all starts with awareness. A spark. When we join together we can do so much. I think the PMDD community is the best example of this in action. We are not alone anymore, and that is our greatest power.”

HeraldScotland:

Started in 2013 by Cat Hawkins in the UK, PMDD Awareness Month brings together women and AFAB individuals from around the world to share their experiences and shine a light on PMDD. 

It is driven by a community of patients, care partners, professionals, and others to help call attention to what they define as a life-threatening and overlooked condition.

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Throughout April, 41 buildings and landmarks around the world, including Edinburgh Castle, will light up teal as a show of support. 

On April 29, the PMDD community will light the night with candles for PMDD Remembrance Day to honor those who have been lost to PMDD by suicide. 

“It’s a surreal experience to see a building or a bridge or a castle lit teal and know it’s lit for you,” said Brett Buchert, Director of Impact at IAPMD.

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Other highlights of the month-long celebration include the #PMDDAwarenessChallenge on Instagram with daily prompts to spark storytelling and awareness-raising. 

Members of the community are also encouraged to take the PMDD Pledge, to stand up and speak out against misinformation and stigma. 

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The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) is the leading patient-led health organization which aims to inspire hope and end suffering in those affected by Premenstrual Disorders.

Since 2013, they have helped over half a million people from more than 100 countries  through peer support, education, research, and advocacy. 

HeraldScotland:

While PMDD is directly connected to the menstrual cycle, it is not a hormone imbalance but rather a severe neurobiological reaction to the natural rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone. 

Symptoms occur the week or two before menstruation and go away a few days after bleeding begins. 

There is no blood or saliva test to diagnose PMDD, but these tests can rule out other underlying disorders. Diagnosis is done by tracking symptoms for at least two menstrual cycles.

The disorder was only recognised as a mental disorder in 2013 and included in the World Health Organization classification of diseases in 2019.