May is Mental Health Month! Every May organizations around the world work to reach anyone living with or affected by mental illness. As the debate continues over PMDD being an illness of the mind/brain or endocrine system, Gia Allemand Foundation works everyday to address the mental and emotional symptoms of this debilitating disorder. Through awareness, support, and education we can #breakthecycle of misdiagnosis, social stigma, and symptom mismanagement while creating a roadmap to recovery.

PMDD = Mental Disorder?

For decades researchers, healthcare providers, and sufferers alike have debated over whether PMDD is an illness or disorder of the brain, endocrine system, or both. On one hand, including PMDD as a psychiatric disorder in classification and diagnostic tools like the DSM provides validation for patients and support for research. On the other, classifying PMDD as a mental illness may result in overdiagnosis and/or overuse of antidepressant and anti-psychotic medications.

PMDD seems to be an abnormal brain response to normal reproductive hormone changes (which is complicated and probably due to a lot of differences we don’t fully understand yet, including altered gene expression in response to hormones, altered metabolism of hormones to neurosteroids, and some sort of difficulty the brain has to adjust to changing neurosteroids).

Symptoms of PMDD can be both psychological and physical. While many women report severe bloating and pain, all women with PMDD experience feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, or mood swings, and some also experience symptoms escalating to rage or thoughts of suicide or self-harm. Research shows that SSRIs can help minimize these symptoms in some women but it is unknown how long the positive benefits of SSRIs can last.

For many, mental health treatment options can go a long way in managing the severity of symptoms. We do know that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are extremely beneficial and that peer support is proven to provide greater positive outcomes when used as part of a treatment plan.

It is important to know that the brain is as much part of the body as is an ovary or an arm. Mental health IS health and care should be equal across the board!

PMDD v PME

PME stands for Premenstrual Exacerbation of an underlying disorder. As there is a high rate of dual-diagnosis, many with PMDD also suffer from a variety of other brain disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Bipolar Disorder (BPD)  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It can be difficult at times to determine if a woman is suffering from PMDD or PME as both disorders will show severe symptoms between ovulation and menstruation (aka luteal phase). With PME, however, symptoms will be present throughout the month while getting worse during the luteal phase. The only way to know the difference is to track your cycle and symptoms! By sharing your tracking information with a knowledgeable healthcare provider, you'll be on your way to understanding the link and developing a plan for treatment.

#break­TheCycle

PMDD and PME are cyclical disorders that can have severe negative impact on quality of life. Many women are caught in the cycle of trying new medications, therapies, diets, doctors, and more. In honor of Mental Health Month and our 2017 Annual Conference, Gia Allemand Foundation is providing advocates like you with tools and resources necessary to break this endless cycle. We're here to disrupt the status quo and build a roadmap to recovery for women of reproductive age.

Toolkit

Gia Allemand Foundation has created several tools and resources to help individuals and communities raise awareness of PMDD and PME. Use these to create awareness in your community while offering a path to support and recovery for anyone who needs it.

Your #BreakTheCycle kit includes:

  • Media elements including a press release, outreach ideas, and key messaging
  • Social media materials for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more
  • A prewritten letter to representatives
  • Fact sheets and brochures

To get all this and more, just complete the brief form below to help us learn more about who is using these materials. We will follow up with you in June to complete a brief survey on how you used the toolkit and evaluate the collective impact our community has made!