‘Pathologizing’ means to regard someone or something as so statistically abnormal that they require accommodations or treatment to function normally in society. Some have argued that, by creating a diagnosis like PMDD that by definition can only be diagnosed in females or individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB), or creating a diagnosis related to the natural cycle of ovulation and menstruation, that we pathologize the normal “female experience”. We do not believe that this is the case. 

While a majority of women/AFAB experience a range of mild premenstrual symptoms including bloating, breast tenderness, and/or mild emotional changes, for 19 out of 20 women/AFAB these symptoms don’t interfere with daily function and don’t need treatment or intervention. 

However, an estimated 1 in 20 women/AFAB of reproductive age experience severe cyclical symptoms that disrupt their quality of life (PMDD). This condition is not a “normal” part of the menstrual cycle, and needs to be “pathologized” so that sufferers can be correctly diagnosed, supported, and treated.  

In conclusion, creating a specific diagnosis like PMDD effectively de-pathologizes the normal female experience (the 19 out of 20 cycling individuals that don’t have PMDD). By directly identifying those suffering from this medical condition (the 1 out of 20 with PMDD) we de-bunk the stereotype that all females are “over-emotional” or “simply hormonal” when irritable, concerned, or upset. 

By acknowledging the presence of PMDD, we actually reject the idea that all females are impaired by their cycle.


Updated 22 December, 2018 by Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, PhD & Amanda LaFleur

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