I believe there is a role for therapy in helping women manage the physical and psychological symptoms of PMS.
On the topic of women’s health, I ‘ve been thinking about menstruation—how women menstruate each month, and how depending on the age of onset and the time of each woman’s change of life, menstruation can cause women differing degrees of difficulty throughout their lives. Even though menstruation is universal for women, the topic is not written about often. Each month before menstruating women experience physical symptoms, many of them unpleasant. For the majority of women, these symptoms are mild and tolerable, while for others they can be excruciating and disabling. In addition, many women in their reproductive years experience transient physical and emotional changes before they menstruate. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a term that refers to a pattern of emotional and behavior symptoms occurring in women one to two weeks in advance of menses and remitting with the onset of a woman’s period. PMS is common, affecting from 30-80% of women of reproductive age.
Beyond the physical symptoms of PMS, which include abdominal bloating, increased appetite, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, sleep disturbance (usually hypersomnia), and swelling of extremities, there are numerous psychological impacts. These may include: anger, anxiety, depression, irritability, sense of feeling overwhelmed, sensitivity to rejection, and social withdrawal.
What Causes PMS?
Current research suggests that while PMS has psychological impacts, it is a biological phenomenon, based on particular sensitivity to normal cyclical hormonal changes.
How can a therapist help women with PMS?
While PMS and its symptoms are often kept silent, talking about it always makes women feel better. As a therapist, I can help women understand their symptoms and patterns more effectively by keeping a monthly mood chart, which helps to identify the relationship between mood changes and cycles, enabling women to anticipate days when they may be at risk for their mood worsening. I can also suggest lifestyle modifications that can bring improvement and should be tried before turning to pharmacological treatment. Often a decrease in sugar, caffeine, sodium, alcohol, and nicotine consumption, along with proper nutrition, aerobic exercise, and sufficient sleep can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is also effective in helping women navigate the monthly changes they experience in their bodies and psychological state.
PMS isn’t going away, but it is treatable, and talking to a qualified and experienced therapist, such as myself, can make the symptoms and impacts of PMS much more manageable.