Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
She scanned the hall with her eyes to check if there was any male member(s) sitting. She has to cross the hall from this side of her room to get to the washroom situated on the other side. And she absolutely can’t risk letting anyone know of her predicament.Quickly she hid the packet in the folds of her clothes and ran across towards the washroom; not forgetting to bolt the door behind her….
Considered a taboo to speak openly, the women keep whispering among themselves in those days of the month. Its like an open secret which is indulged in by everybody but always forbidden to speak openly especially before men. Times are changing, dialogue on this ‘secret’ is slowly opening up but there is still a long way to go. I am speaking about menstruation and the condition to be discussed in this article is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
To have a discussion on menstruation is largely forbidden as far as India is concerned. Forget about public platforms, this as a topic is not even discussed openly in households among family members. Yet it is an open secret to all. Thus I find the mention of sanitary pads for women in this year’s Independence Day speech by our Honorable Prime Minister, an appreciable move; for these mentions would help in breaking the taboo around it. Touching the puberty age is a very important milestone in any girl’s life. There are various more visible physical and psychological changes which an adolescent goes through when she touches puberty. In this context, not many people understand the plight of a menstruating woman as a result of which women might often become the source of mockery and insult.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder refers to the mental state of a woman who is just a few days away from her monthly cycle. Women go through severe mood swings, body pains especially backache and ache in the joints because of which they might be easily exhausted or tired. Conflicts with significant people might crop up with visible anger or irritable mood experienced by women. There are hormonal changes occurring in the body as a result of which there might be the experience of more or less appetite, insomnia or hypersomnia. Persistent low mood, sense of hopelessness, sense of going crazy etc are also commonly observed. Stomach cramps on the first day of the menstrual cycle and in some cases, for all the 5 days is also a reality. In India, it is usually the norm that a woman who is menstruating is made to sit apart (isolated from the family members) for the 5 days the cycle occurs. They are restricted from doing any household work, cooking or touch pickles etc. The reason for such ritual is the stated impurity of the body of the woman for those 5 days of the month. While this may be true; there is also the idea of rest which is most important. Due to the symptoms mentioned above, women are refrained from doing the normal chores of the household so that they may remain in a state of relaxation, a state of rest. Due to the discharge of impure blood from the body, it is natural that weakness might be experienced as a result of which it is imperative that they take plenty of rest and food to recuperate the lost energy. Most of the symptoms recede with the onset of the menstrual cycle; nevertheless, in the event of it continuing during or after the cycle as well as observed before every cycle of the month; PMDD might be taken seriously into consideration. At the same time, the mention of menstrual disorder in the DSM should not be understood as a mental illness. Menstruation is a fact of life and there is absolutely no shame in having dialogues on the subject and be considerate towards women during this phase.
While such norms of sitting apart, not doing household chores etc were followed in the traditional times, these have ceased to exist mostly today due to the unending demands of capitalism and productivity. Women today proudly hold important positions in authority and are capable of handling multiple roles with efficiency and strength. The recent debate on women being granted a leave on the first day of every monthly menstrual cycle is a point worthy to be mentioned. Being granted a holiday is a positive step, men holding open dialogues on the subject is also a positive outcome. But there is still more to be done for there are instances wherein discrepancies between actions and words may be found. Women who are thought to be intuitively emotional, are also ignored of their feelings as a case of menstrual initiated mood swings. Directly or indirectly it is dismissed off with mockery or blatant indifference. It is a known fact that most women themselves refrain from speaking on the subject in the public domain or do so in the absence of men. When such negative attitudes are shown, then it might also lead to one being critical of one’s body and self-criticize a lot. Low self-esteem and constant doubts are also possible outcomes. It is therefore important to own up a more optimistic attitude towards the reality of menstruation, make sure it gets reflected in one’s actions too in order to bring about a positive change in society.