PMS: Generalized and exaggerated?

In certain ways, this reminds me of the myth of the full moon.
Is PMS a Myth?
For many women, premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a familiar preamble to their monthly cycle. But a new review of the data suggests that mood changes aren’t as closely tied to menses as many have assumed.
A team led by Dr. Sarah Romans of the University of Otago in New Zealand reviewed 47 studies that followed women’s moods across the menstrual cycle. Only 15% of the studies found that women tended to have “classic” PMS: moods that worsened as the menstrual period approached and lifted when menstruation occurred. An additional 38% found PMS that lasted into menstruation or another cycle phase.
However, a further 38% of the studies found no association between mood and any particular phase of the cycle. And 9% found that the worst moods actually occurred outside of the premenstrual phase. That means that little more than half of the studies (53%) found any link between menstruation and bad mood, and 85% didn’t find classic PMS.
“The major finding of this review was that clear evidence for a specific premenstrual-phase-related mood occurring in the general population is lacking,” the authors conclude.
There is a long-running cultural idea of PMS that should be overcome. It’s seems to be a convenient excuse used by men more than women it seems. But all in all, what the reality says is that while some women (1-9%) suffer from  premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), many women are more influenced by a variety of outside factors on their moods more so than hormone levels. When we feel blah, we might look for something to attribute it to. That’s similar to the full moon myth where we attribute some oddity to the fact that it’s a full moon. The correlation may simply be coincidental.
The truth just may be that the idea of PMS has been oversimplified, generalized and exaggerated.

  5 comments for “PMS: Generalized and exaggerated?

  1. October 23, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    This subject was covered in the article “‘Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder’ and ‘Premenstrual Syndrome’ Myths” in the May/June 2003 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (unfortunately not on line). Stephen Ray Flora and Melissa Sellers made an even bolder case along similar lines. Needless to say the response got quite heated. I recall them pointing out that women were being given Prozac for PMS while the listed side-effects for Prozac included many of the symptoms of PMS…

  2. Peebs
    October 23, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    Why do women suffer from PMS?

    Because they deserve it!

    Apologies, apologies, apologies.

  3. Kim
    October 24, 2012 at 6:24 AM

    Most married woman would be happy, no effort required in the bedroom for those days! Probably the men with mood swings then!

  4. Kev
    October 24, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    I find the angle of these findings a bit odd.

    To suggest that our perceptions of PMS is generalised and exaggerated because the study showed that actually, “only” 53% of subjects found any link between menstruation and bad mood, is bizarre.

    That figure is wildly beyond the sort I was expecting! If people are anything like me (which is of course normal in every possible way), they will have been underestimating its affect. Over half of women feel their mood deteriorate periodically every month – put like that, it’s pretty fascinating stuff. The fact that only (and that’s a genuine “only” this time) 15% fall within that bell-curve of “classic” PMS, fairly irrelevant doesn’t it?

  5. LovleAnjel
    October 24, 2012 at 11:04 AM

    The big question is whether the hormones are affecting mood, or something else. I for one get bloaty and that puts me in a bad mood. After menses begins, I have feminine products irritating my nether regions all day, which puts me in a bad mood after PMS is supposed to have ended. I can’t tell what effort was made to remove similar confounding variables.

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