A word of advice: Think before you call a Code Red
There’s still something murky and mythical about menstruation, that most mundane of things.
It’s all tied up with notions of womanliness, of moons and mysticism. Despite ads reaching saturation point (sorry) with advice on how to deal with periods, unless you’ve had one, you probably don’t know all that much about them.
Truth is, they’re a pain in the… well. They’re a pain. They’re annoying. And they can make some women a little bit crazy some of the time.
Only about 15 per cent of negative moods are associated purely with the pre-menstrual phase, according to Canadian scientists who did a meta-analysis of 47 studies. They found the “puzzlingly widespread belief” that there is a general link between menstruation and mood “needs challenging”.
That’s because women start to get asked (in my case, at a far too young age) whether they’ve got their period every time they’re snarky, or tired, or just a little bit grumpy.
There is nothing more infuriating, especially when you’re in that easily-infuriated stage of adolescence, than when you’re genuinely upset about something really crap that has happened, only to have someone most charmingly ask you if you’re ‘on your rags’.
It’s enough to make you lash out in a most irrational manner, or crumple into tears. And so the stereotype persists.
Of course, women are culpable too. I’ve been guilty on occasion of having a little outburst apropos of nothing and finding it easier to blame it on hormones than on a general ennui and frustration at the meaninglessness of life.
What’s important about this study out today in Gender Medicine, though, is that it’s a solid review of the science, and what it has found is that women are neither all skydiving and horseriding the second they get their period; nor are they all hysterical beasts in that danger period before.
It affects everyone differently. Up to 8 per cent of women suffer premenstrual dysphoric disorder. That sounds like a real bitch – it causes severe depression and anxiety and it’s at this extreme end of the spectrum that it can be used in a court of law as a defence against crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.
For 15 per cent of women there’s a very real connection between hormonal fluctuation and mood. Then there’s the rest of us who sometimes suffer mood swings at different stages of our cycle… which may, or may not, be actually related to aforementioned cycle.
So people, please, listen to the science if not to the woman in your life. It may be hormonal, but it may not. Ask. Listen. But don’t just call a Code Red without thinking about it first.
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