- What is PMS?
PMS refers to premenstrual syndrome, a condition that affects a woman’s emotions, physical health, and behavior during certain days of the menstrual cycle (usually in the last half of it- a few days prior to the onset of their menstrual cycle.)
It is important to note that someone can experience PMS without actually having a period in the ‘normal’ way. This is because there are two types of cycle; anovulation, and ovulation. The latter is what causes the bleeding as an egg is released which causes the uterus lining to break down and bleed. In contrast, the former (anovulation), occurs when an egg does not mature and therefore isn’t released (ovulation is ‘skipped’.) When this happens, the uterus lining is not triggered to break down, meaning there is no blood. Anovulation most commonly occurs due to hormonal imbalances which are frequently caused by issues relating to nutrition and body weight.
Whilst very few people have actually heard of it, PMS is, in fact, a very common condition, affecting more than 90% of menstruating women.
It is most commonly described as being an endocrine disorder, however due to the many mental health symptoms that someone with the condition will experience, it has recently been listed as a mental health disorder too.
2. What are the symptoms of PMS?
Emotional/behavioral signs & symptoms:
- Tension or anxiety (feelings of being on edge)
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Depressed mood
- Crying spells/oversensitivity
- Mood swings and irritability or anger
- Feeling hopeless
- Appetite changes and food cravings
- Trouble falling asleep/staying asleep (insomnia)
- Social withdrawal & less interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Poor concentration
- Change in libido
Physical signs & symptoms:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Fatigue/lack of energy
- Weight gain related to fluid retention
- Abdominal bloating
- Breast tenderness
- Acne flare-ups
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Alcohol intolerance
For some, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect their daily lives. Regardless of symptom severity, the signs and symptoms generally disappear within four days after the start of the menstrual period for most women.
There are different types of PMS, each of which has a slightly different set of symptoms. I will explore these in greater detail in the the next question…
3. What are the types of PMS?
- PMS-A is the most common type, with symptoms including heightened levels of anxiety, irritability, and emotional instability. People suffering with this condition are likely to notice that every little thing ‘sets them off’, and that they become increasingly irritated with people, therefore generally preferring to be left alone.
- PMS-C is characterised by intense cravings, usually for carbs and sweets. It can result in an extreme increase in ones appetite, as well as causing many other physical symptoms to present themselves, such as heart palpitations, headache, fatigue/low energy, and fainting. These symptoms occur due to low blood sugar, which means that if people can’t satisfy their appetite, they can’t function properly.
- PMS-D and its associated symptoms are centered around depression.
- PMS-H refers to ‘hyper-hydration.’ This is when the bodies water content is deemed to be excessive, a result of water retention. This can trigger symptoms such as weight gain and bloating to occur.
- PMS-P is concerned with pain. People affected with the condition feel pain in the form of cramps either leading up to, or during the days of their menstruation. People might also report experiencing joint or muscle pain.
- PM-DD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is the most severe form of PMS. Alongside the symptoms of the five other types of PMS as listed above, PMDD can also lead to those with the condition, in extreme cases, feeling suicidal.
4. What are the possible causes of PMS?
People are at greater risk of being diagnosed with PMS if they have anxiety and/or depression. People are also more prone to developing it if they have a family history of PMS.
Decreasing levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone hormones may trigger symptoms of PMS. Serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood, hunger and sleep, may also play a role. Serotonin levels, like hormone levels, change throughout ones menstrual cycle.
5. What treatment is available to individuals experiencing PMS?
Left untreated, PMS can lead to a depression diagnosis being made. This is because its symptoms can disrupt the lives of those affected by it, ruining things of great importance such as relationships and careers. PMS should therefore always be treated as soon as possible, with hormonal birth control (the pill) and anti-depressants able to relieve many of the symptoms. Anti-depressants work by managing the serotonin levels in ones brain.
Other (non-prescription) ways in which one can help to relieve their symptoms include making dietary changes, engaging in regular exercise, and practicing meditation/deep breathing exercises to manage stress levels.
There are also some over the counter supplements that are thought to be helpful in managing PMS symptoms, e.g. calcium carbonate, and vitamin B6.
To conclude, its important to understand the severity of PMS, for it can often be perceived by people as being something that ‘every woman goes through.’ However, PMS is not just something we have to ‘put up with’ when its our ‘time of the month’, it is a serious condition that requires treatment in the same way that any other illness deserves treatment.
I hope that you have found this post informative, I have certainly found writing about it to be incredibly insightful.