– BY BRETT BUCHERT –
Think for a moment about the saddest you’ve ever felt in your life, the angriest you’ve ever been, and the most anxiety you’ve ever dealt with. Now imagine all of that happening at once: extreme depression, severe anxiety, and anger bordering on rage on top of other symptoms like suicidal thoughts, fatigue, cravings, bloating, and headaches. Finally, realise that this happens for almost two weeks each month with no real situational cause. Sounds like hell? It is and it’s called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).
PMDD is a little understood but highly debilitating genetic condition that’s related to a woman’s menstrual cycle. It affects as many as 10 million women in the US and Europe alone; 2-10% of women in their reproductive years, according to the Gia Allemand Foundation for PMDD. Women with PMDD experience the aforementioned symptoms, among others, which usually start about one to two weeks before their period (during the premenstrual, or luteal phase). Then, when the period comes, the symptoms go (a small blessing) allowing a woman to feel ‘normal’ and herself, before they come again the next month to wreak havoc on her life and relationships.
PMDD affects 1 in 20 women
Far more severe than premenstrual syndrome (PMS), PMDD is a chronic medical condition that needs attention and treatment. Without effective treatment, the heartbreaking fact is that approximately 15% of women with PMDD will attempt suicide in her lifetime. This is partly because for far too long women with the condition have lacked support or even medical validation. In fact, 80% of women with PMDD are not diagnosed at all, or are diagnosed with other conditions like depression and bipolar disorder. These women often find little relief from treatments as they aren’t targeting the real culprit: PMDD.
Symptom tracking is the key
However, I want to change that. Earlier this year, I, along with my mother, Sheila Buchert, began developing an app known as the Me v PMDD Symptom Tracker. The goal of this app: to diminish the diagnosis gap and help women with PMDD to better track and manage their symptoms so they can lead happier, healthier lives.
Me v PMDD will make symptom and treatment tracking for PMDD accessible and simple, by featuring easy-to-read symptom graphs to help women and their doctors understand and more effectively treat PMDD. The app will help replace the antiquated printable symptom tracking charts currently made available online. It will also include a Self-Love Journal for personal affirmations and reminders of coping mechanisms, as well as resources to learn more about PMDD, links to peer support, suicide/crisis hotlines, and doctors in your area who treat PMDD. These resources are made possible by Me v PMDD’s partnership with the Gia Allemand Foundation for PMDD, the leading US organization advocating for the prevention, treatment, and research of this condition.
‘For us, it’s personal’
Period tracking apps are all the rage these days. It’s so important for all women with periods to better know their bodies. Me v PMDD takes period tracking a step further though. It’s specifically designed for women with PMDD who need the ability to track many mood symptoms that the leading period tracking apps just don’t cover in detail. We hope it can contribute to the changing tides surrounding women’s menstrual health and lead to better support, resources, and more effective treatment for women with PMDD.
Why do we care? Well, for us, it’s personal. I’ve suffered from PMDD since puberty, but at the time we didn’t know it. Flash forward ten years, after hundreds of counseling sessions, a mix bag of antidepressants, supplements, and anti-anxiety medications that didn’t work, and so much emotional pain, I decided I needed a semester home from college to cope. By the suggestion of my personal (and life-saving) physician, and my mom’s immense help, I began to track my symptoms plotted over my menstrual cycle. To my doctor, the data was undeniable: I had PMDD.
‘It was never my fault; it was PMDD’
I’ve begun treatment for PMDD that is actually working! I’ve let go of the shame and blame I’ve put on myself for years, because through my tracking and my diagnosis I can now see that it was never my fault – it was PMDD. Tracking saved my life. I need this app to continue improving my mental health, and millions of women around the world need it too. I leave you all, people with periods, with the call to practise self-care in your life and consider tracking your symptoms if you’ve struggled with your mental health and received little relief. It could well be PMDD, and now, there’s an app for that.
The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAMPD) is a lifeline of support, information, and resources for women and AFAB individuals with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME). Check out the website here. April is PMDD Awareness Month. Throughout April 2021, buildings & landmarks around the world will light up TEAL to shine a light on PMDD awareness.
About the author
The American Brett Buchert suffers from PMDD and only found out about this after tracking her symptoms. Wanting to help women all over the world who might also be suffering from PMDD, together with her mother Sheila she created the ‘Me v PMDD’ Symptom Tracker app. Follow Brett on Instagram.
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Photo above: Corinne Kutz via Unsplash.