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10-02 Acting Out: Breaking the blame stigma among women and PMS symptoms

Posted in Mental Health, stress

Acting Out: Breaking the blame stigma among women and PMS symptoms

Adolescents of both genders experience physiological and hormonal changes that affect their respective behaviors, but a common misconception is how women are excessively influenced by their monthly menstruation. Although it can contribute to some changes in conduct, a stigma of commonly negative behaviors in women associated with premenstrual syndrome and its expressed symptoms is often misunderstood.

PMS symptoms

According to the online educational resource for women, Epigee, developed by Monnica T. Williams, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Louisville and director of the Behavioral Wellness Counseling Clinic in Louisville, Kentucky, the major symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, consist of various symptoms. Common physical indicators include tenderness in the breasts, back pain, general muscle aches and headaches, bloating and other gastrointestinal problems. In addition, the monthly condition can also evoke a number of emotional and mental symptoms including:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties with concentration and decision-making
  • Altered sex drive

Breaking the stigma of the maladjusted woman

Due to these possible complications, modern society has increasingly associated female sensitivity and emotional expression with PMS and its effect on women. In the 1990 article, “The Media Construct a Menstrual Monster: A Content Analysis of PMS Articles in the Popular Press,” Joan C. Chrisler, Ph.D., and Karen B. Levy, B.A., from Connecticut College examined 78 magazine pieces that were published between 1980 and 1987. The authors summarized, “The results indicate a strong bias in favor of reporting negative menstrual cycle changes. Articles are generally negative in tone and present a confusing array of symptoms and contradictory treatment recommendations. The media coverage of PMS supports the stereotype of the maladjusted woman.”

This uneven outlook on female behavior and its natural patterns can have a substantial effect on maturing girls who are typically the target audience for media outlets and publications. In actuality, teen girls may not even exhibit prominent PMS symptoms. This trend was supported in the 2006 study, “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) in Adolescents: Severity and Impairment,” conducted by Michelle Vichnin, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania. After screening a sample of almost 100 adolescent girls between 13 and 18 years who reported having PMS, only 31 percent met the diagnostic criteria while 54 percent did not meet the full requirements and 15 percent met little to no requirements.

The 1992 study, “Prevalence and Correlates of the Premenstrual Syndrome in Adolescence,” found similar results. Shyamala Nada Raja, M.Sc., and other medical researchers from Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit and the University of Otago observed 384 15-year-olds and also found low rates of manifested symptoms and identification. They also detailed that perceived and self-reported anxiety, inattention and poor health were the most significant factors of expressed PMS symptoms and could be treated to mediate the severity of PMS.

If you or a loved is experiencing severe premenstrual symptoms, it may be caused by premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD in which case a clinical consultation may be required. Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a specialized facility that aids adolescents with their issues concerning mental health, substance abuse and everything in between. Call to speak with a professional for you or your teen.

Acting Out: Male teen hormones and their effect on behavior

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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