“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
When William Congreve wrote that in his comedic tragedy “The Mourning Bride” in 1697, he might as well have said “hell hath no fury like a woman’s PMS.” Premenstrual syndrome is a real condition with real signs and symptoms just like any other health issue. The seeming temporary insanity of women, dubbed “female hysteria” in days gone by, has long been linked to the uterus and the ovarian cycle. Indeed, the inspiration for the word “hysteria” is the Greek word for uterus, “hystera”. Whatever you call it, the symptoms of PMS are well-documented but poorly understood because of inconsistencies between women and between cycles. And, they have been affecting women and their relationships since the dawn of time.
When women are unhappy and suffering, their loved ones suffer too. Seventy to 90 percent of women with premenstrual syndrome experience anxiety, irritability, mood swings and tension due to hormonal shifts before their period. In more severe cases of PMS, a woman will likely notice that it’s affecting her relationships with the people that are most important in her life. PMS tends to affect women in their 30’s and 40’s who have families that rely on them for care. According to Stephanie Bender, clinical psychologist and author of PMS: Questions & Answer, most women will seek help for PMS when they feel it’s starting to mar their relationship with their children.
Women who feel out of control during certain times of the month often harbor feelings of guilt, self-loathing or shame because of their volatile behavior. In order for healing to occur in their relationships, women must acknowledge that premenstrual hormones are affecting their behavior. Self-blame or denying the condition helps no one and prevents the woman from taking steps to improve her hormonal balance. There are many effective ways to treat PMS, including diet and lifestyle changes or nutritional supplementation.
People who notice cyclical changes in the emotions of the women in their lives should encourage them to seek help from a professional, or, in the very least, resources for self-care. If talking specifically about PMS causes too much stigma, have a quiet conversation about the woman’s stress level and what could be done to give her more “me time”. Encourage stress-relieving activities like exercise, artistic expression or lovemaking to improve her hormonal health and the health of your relationship.PMS need not be your cue to avoid the women you care about, but an opportunity for strengthening the bonds of communication and support.
Women’s Encyclopedia of Health & Emotional Healing by Denise Foley, Eileen Nechas and the Editors of Prevention Magazine. Rodale Press, 1993. Chapter 67, page 378-381.