Mood Swings

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I ran across an article last year at the online publication The UK Daily Mail entitled, “Women with extreme PMS will now be deemed ‘mentally ill’ following controversial revision of health manual.”

The health manual cited in the article is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by the American Psychiatric Association. The “extreme PMS” which the manual has deemed to be a form of mental illness, is actually called PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

Treating women with hormone imbalance as if they are stricken with mental illness is hardly a new phenomenon. Just ask any woman who has sought help for her perimenopause symptoms. She’ll tell you. But now that the American Psychiatric Association has officially listed it in their diagnostic manual then I guess it’s officially “official.” Women suffering with hormone imbalance are mentally ill.

The baby-boomer-feminist in me would like nothing more than to go all “postal” over this. But, then, how ironic would that be? A classic catch-22 if there ever was one. So I shan’t.

To further rub salt in the wound, The Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, run by the Department of Psychiatry at The University of North Carolina Medical School at Chapel Hill, also recently posted a link on The Perimenopause Blog’s Facebook page seeking women to participate in a research study entitled PERT – Perimenopausal Estrogen Replacement Therapy – in order to study the effects of estrogen on depression, and cardiovascular disease in perimenopausal women.

I actually think this is a worthwhile study because low estrogen levels, and hence, low serotonin levels, are key in understanding depression in women during perimenopause, and even menopause. But do we have to keep referring to issues of hormone imbalance as “disorders?” Or worse yet, deem women who struggle with symptoms of hormone imbalance as mentally ill? Really?

To say that I am appalled that in the 21st century we are still treating women as if there is something inherently wrong with them and how their bodies are designed to function is a massive understatement. But I am also painfully aware of my “David” status in my role as a healthcare advocate for women in the Goliath world of Western medicine.

My voice is but one drop in an ocean of voices whose influence is far more powerful than mine. Believe me. I get it. It also makes it hard to know sometimes which way to set your sails.

Should I keep trying to push my way through the headwinds of powerful institutions like the American Psychiatric Association or the American Medical Association or the ever present and pernicious pharmaceutical industry?

Or should I just keep doing what I think I do best: talking to women, interacting with women, and encouraging them to trust themselves, and what they know about their own bodies?

I’m thinking I’m going to stick with my sisters.

Because, quite frankly, women know more about the influence of hormones on their moods than any Freudian inspired institution will ever know. I can assure you of that.

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