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PMS a 'myth' for women who need a 'get-out-of-jail-free' card

One female psychologist claims that PMS is just a ‘myth’ and the effects it can have on women have been wildly exaggerated. Picture: iStock
One female psychologist claims that PMS is just a ‘myth’ and the effects it can have on women have been wildly exaggerated. Picture: iStock

MOST are thought to have been affected at some point in their lives by premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can cause symptoms such as mood swings, bloating and breast tenderness.

According to Monash University 90 per cent of women experience at least one symptom each month and some women can be affected so severely that it impedes on their day-to-day life.

But one female psychologist has claimed that PMS is nothing but a myth that women use as an "excuse for when they need a break".

Robyn Stein DeLuca, a research assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University in New York, believes the severe effects of PMS have been exaggerated through the media and the medical community.

In reality, women were just feeling overwhelmed with their busy lives, she said.

"Growing up, when we become women, we are told in books, on the internet and in magazines that PMS is out there. We internalise this idea that our bodies must be faulty," DeLuca told the Mail Online .

"The medical community is also to blame. We see this again and again that normal life stages, such as pregnancy and childbirth, are treated as sicknesses that have to have some kind of intervention.

"That perspective encourages women to think of their bodies as instruments that cause illness. But it's more likely that women feel overwhelmed."

There are as many as 150 physical and emotional symptoms of PMS but the ones that women most commonly experience include irritability, bloating, mood swings, anxiety, depressed mood, fatigue, appetite changes, water retention and breast tenderness.

In her book, The Hormone Myth: How junk science, gender politics and lies about PMS keep women down, DeLuca claimed there was scientific evidence backing up her beliefs that hormones don't impact woman as much as they are led to believe.

She said because modern women have so many extra responsibilities - using the examples of work, taking care of families, monitoring others' health and making Christmas dinner - they felt like failures if they couldn't do all of these things.

"So they use PMS "like a get-out-of-jail-free card," DeLuca said.

While some women do experience hormonal changes and the symptoms that can come with that, she said it wasn't enough to inhibit completing day-to-day activities.

"While hormones do cause some physical and emotional symptoms - women can get cramps, bloating and feel depressed - they certainly don't affect us emotionally to the point that it's a big deal. That's where the myth is. That's where it's not true," DeLuca said.

"Reproductive events like our monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy or the menopause don't mentally destabilise us. Most women function at a very high level throughout their lives."

However, there were many other health professionals that strong disagreed such as women's health professor Joyce Harper who said it was a fact that hormonal changes affect mood.

"We are not all feeling 'overwhelmed'. I totally disagree that 'is really just evidence of modern women struggling under the burden of trying to have - and do - it all'," she told The Independent. "We have not invented PMS."

The controversial idea that PMS is a myth was not a new one, with a study published in 2012 in Gender Medicine magazine stating the link between negative moods and menstrual cycles was tenuous at best.

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto, led by Dr Sarah Romans examined 47 studies from between 1971 and 2007 and concluded the results "failed to provide clear evidence in support of the existence of a specific premenstrual negative mood syndrome".

Once this research was published, Britain's National Health Service (NHS) warned that due to the small sample sizes used in the study the findings seemed to be "more of an opinion piece than an example of significant medical research".

Topics:  health psychology science


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