Research questions the prudence of attributing negative moods to the menstrual cycle.
"The idea that any emotionality in women can be firstly attributed to their reproductive function -- we're skeptical about that," Dr. Sarah Romans told me, skeptical said with audible restraint.
She and eight other researchers at the medical school at the University of Toronto published a review last week in the journal Gender Medicine that looked at all of the clinical research they could find to date on PMS with prospective data. Their conclusion was that the articles, in aggregate, "failed to provide clear evidence in support of the existence of a specific premenstrual negative mood syndrome."
Romans isn't saying that the mood symptoms we attribute to PMS aren't real and common. But she is saying that those symptoms are culturally over-attributed to the menstrual cycle, to the detriment of the medical community and those experiencing them -- and as a broader issue of gender equality.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the definitive text of U.S. psychiatrists, defines and outlines a diagnosis called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It's often casually defined as a severe version of PMS, which itself is not included in the DSM as a diagnosis. PMDD is characterized by physical and behavioral symptoms in the second half of the menstrual cycle.