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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – Fact or Fiction?

I was furious at my friend for cancelling our movie and dinner plans at the last minute. I now had an entire evening before me with nothing to do and no one for company. I called up that friend (to give him a piece of my mind) and ranted on and on about how miserable I felt alone and that there was nothing that would make me happy now. I was angry and frustrated and sad and this concoction of emotions erupted over the phone on my friend.

My friend simply asked, “Is it that time of the month? Are you PMSing?

It took me a minute to realize what he meant by the question. He wanted to know if my behaviour was a result of the Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

            I didn’t know whether to feel good that he considered it as a source of disturbance or to feel bad that he blamed my anger at his mistake on my periods. It got me thinking!

What is PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome? Is it real?

PMS is a combination of physical and psychological disturbances that occur in women a week or two before their menstrual periods causing significant distress and discomfort and disrupting their everyday functioning. The symptoms may vary for each woman, ranging from mood swings, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, bloating, headaches to depression. It’s intensity may also vary for different women, but its presence is undeniable. Three out of four women experience symptoms of PMS at least once in their lifetime. Isn’t this real enough?

What are the symptoms of PMS?

Physical Symptoms: Joint or muscle pain, headache, fatigue, weight gain related to fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, acne flare-ups, constipation or diarrhea, alcohol intolerance, etc.

Psychological Symptoms: Tension or anxiety, depressed mood, crying spells, mood swings and irritability or anger, appetite changes and food cravings, trouble falling asleep (insomnia), social withdrawal, poor concentration, change in libido, etc,

What causes PMS?

The exact cause is unknown, but most researchers agree that PMS is related to the hormonal changes that correspond with the menstrual cycle. Women’s sensitivity to these hormonal changes may determine whether the symptoms may be experienced or not. It can be experienced more by women having higher levels of stress, family history of depression, or personal history of maladaptive coping styles.

Societal assumptions about mental health and menstrual cycles have been largely negative over the past century. Premenstrual syndrome has been the target of numerous jokes or a patsy for men and women equally to easily transfer the burden of their intolerant behaviours. However, not every emotional outburst or bodily trouble is associated with PMS. It is necessary that we give due importance and acceptance to the phenomena for what it really is – A natural part of women’s life that may impact them significantly and not as an excuse to cover up our intolerances.

By Ms. Asmita Dalvi

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