For those living with PMDD (or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), intense feelings of self doubt, fatigue, heightened sensitivity towards others, paranoia, tearfulness and reduced social skills during the premenstrual phase of their cycle are all too common, making the workplace a gut-wrenching battlefield. Every single month.
The needle is moving slowly when it comes to menstrual health at work – but you can help to accelerate it. Make yourself an ally. Listen, learn and stand by your people. Here’s your starter for ten…
What PMDD actually is
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a cyclical mood condition with symptoms arising during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle, and subsiding within a few days of menstruation. It affects an estimated 5.5% of women and AFAB people of reproductive age.
People with the condition will experience at least 5 of these symptoms during every cycle:
- Extreme mood/emotional changes
- Irritability, anger, or increased interpersonal conflict
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or guilt
- Anxiety and tension
- Decreased interest in usual activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or low energy
Causing severe emotional, professional & personal harm, many living with PMDD report damaging & impulsive behaviours (such as suddenly leaving a job or relationship). Others have described persistent thoughts of suicide & self-harm. An extremely common feeling is that they’re living a ‘half-life’, with “one week of hell and three weeks of cleaning up”, only for it to start all over again.
What PMDD definitely isn’t
PMDD is not ‘just your period’.
We’re not here to pathologise menstruation. It is a very normal, very essential part of the reproductive cycle, and some discomfort can be expected.
But PMDD is not menstruation. And, in terms of health, it has the potential to affect quality of life to the point of disability.
Daily symptom tracking (for a minimum of 2 cycles) is required before a PMDD diagnosis can be given. Treatment is then typically offered to alleviate those symptoms. This can, of course, be really useful. But it’s not the whole story.
Talking therapies have proven to be hugely beneficial to those with PMDD, focusing on a person’s lived experience of the condition and how it manifests in their life, as well as exploring other incidents, memories and traumas that may exacerbate it. That’s our approach at Self Space; address the human behind the label. You’re more than your diagnosis.
What you can do as an employer
- Find out more about the condition and the effects that it may have on a person’s performance at work. Know what to look out for since many people aren’t even aware of the condition, or might not wish to disclose their diagnosis.
- If a person has shared their PMDD diagnosis with you, ask them what would help to improve their experience at work. PMDD affects people in many different ways; work with the individual human being in front of you.
- Where possible, help them to manage their duties in line with the condition. For example, avoid big presentations or meetings when symptoms are at their worst. You don’t have to know the ins-and-outs of a person’s cycle; just be willing to offer flexibility where you can.
- Point them in the direction of professional support, if necessary. You can’t (and shouldn’t) be expected to understand every nuance of PMDD (or any other condition) so don’t be afraid to suggest speaking with a GP and/or therapist if your employee is struggling.
Want to know more? IAPMD, NAPS and Vicious Cycle each have a wealth of resources and information. Or if you’re ready to take action, talk to us about our therapist-led workshops, talks and training for businesses.