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Social Worker concerned PMDD in women could be overdiagnosed

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Photo courtesy of

Some women experience crippling depression, anxiety and tension during the time leading up to menstruation. The symptoms usually disappear as soon as their periods begin.

“I tell everybody, ‘I’m not myself right now,’ ” Philadelphia resident Ronna Simmons, 24, told NPR in this news segment. ” ‘I’ll call you back when I’m Ronna again.'”

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, has been classified as a mental disorder in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-5.

However National Association of Social Workers member Sarah Gehlert, who studies health disparities at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Social Work, told NPR she is concerned PMDD diagnosis could be used to diminish the role of women in society or prove they are incapable.

Gehlert did a study of 1,246 women from St. Louis and Chicago. The women filled out a form every day for two months detailing their moods and how they felt. But they were not asked whether they were menstruating.

Instead the women submitted daily urine samples that let Gehlert and her team know where they were in their menstrual cycles.

Her study found that just 1.3 percent of the women fit the description of PMDD, which is much more severe than the uncomfortable cramping, bloating, mood swings and other symptoms experienced by women who suffer from Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS.

Gehlert is concerned women could be overdiagnosed with PMDD and the disease can be used as weapon against them. Or marketers could flood the market with PMDD medications that most women don’t need.

“Say a poor woman was in court, trying to see whether she could keep custody of her child,” Gehlert said. “Her partner’s or spouse’s attorney might say, ‘Yes, your honor, but she has a mental disorder.’ And she might not get custody of her children.”

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