‘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.


-Tory Eisenlohr-Moul, PhD & Amanda LaFleur, December 18, 2018

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