Premenstrual Syndrome

premenstrual syndrome

premenstrual syndrome (PMS), any of various symptoms experienced by women of childbearing age in the days immediately preceding menstruation. It is most common in women in their twenties and thirties. Some 70%–90% of menstruating women are said to have PMS on a cyclical basis. There are over 150 symptoms associated with the syndrome, including behavioral changes, eating binges, moodiness, irritability, fatigue, fluid retention, breast tenderness, and headaches. Some women have mild symptoms; others have symptoms that interfere with work or home life. A few are completely incapacitated, a condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The symptoms vary from woman to woman, and each woman's symptoms may vary from month to month, making diagnosis difficult.

The exact cause is unknown. Hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, and neurotransmitter (serotonin and norepinephrine) fluctuations are being studied. PMS patients who have had hysterectomies may continue to have symptoms, but the symptoms in all patients disappear with menopause. There is no cure for PMS. In some women, dietary changes and exercise provide some relief through the loss of water weight, the alleviation of stress, and an increase in the production of endorphins. Antidepressants or antianxiety drugs are sometimes prescribed. In severe cases hormones that induce a premature menopause may be administered.

See publications of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; S. D. Bender, PMS: A Positive Program to Gain Control (1986) and PMS: Questions & Answers (1989); Boston Women's Health Book Collective, Our Bodies, Ourselves for the New Century (1998).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Premenstrual Dysphorias: Myths and Realities
Judith H. Gold; Sally K. Severino.
American Psychiatric Press, 1994
Menstrual Disorders
Annette Scambler; Graham Scambler.
Tavistock Routledge, 1993
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of premenstrual syndrome in multiple chapters
Does PMDD Belong in the DSM? Challenging the Medicalization of Women's Bodies
Offman, Alia; Kleinplatz, Peggy J.
The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 13, No. 1, Spring 2004
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Treatment of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Finfgeld, Deborah L.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 38, No. 2, April-June 2002
Body Talk: The Material and Discursive Regulation of Sexuality, Madness, and Reproduction
Jane M. Ussher.
Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Reading the Bleeding Body: Discourses of Premenstrual Syndrome"
Charting a New Course for Feminist Psychology
Lynn H. Collins; Michelle R. Dunlap; Joan C. Chrisler.
Praeger, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Hormone Hostages: The Cultural Legacy of PMS as a Legal Defense"
Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men
Anne Fausto-Sterling.
Basic Books, 1992 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "The Premenstrual Syndrome" begins on p. 93
Women's Mental Health in Primary Care
Kathryn J. Zerbe.
W. B. Saunders, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Menstruation: Approach to the Patient with Premenstrual Syndrome" begins on p. 248
Sex and Gender Issues: A Handbook of Tests and Measures
Carole A. Beere.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Somatic Issues"
The Origin of Everyday Moods: Managing Energy, Tension, and Stress
Robert E. Thayer.
Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Energy and Tension Changes with PMS, Drugs, Social Interaction, Weather, and Life Events"
They Say You're Crazy: How the World's Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who's Normal
Paula J. Caplan.
Perseus Books, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of premenstrual syndrome begins on p. 125
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