A professor has claimed that premenstrual stress is largely a myth and women who experience it usually have their partners to blame.
According to Jane Ussher from the University of Western Sydney, who has carefully honed her argument after years of inciting female colleagues to anger by "denying their experience", couples therapy is a potential treatment for severe cases of premenstrual moodiness.
AdvertisementNow she says that women clearly experience physical changes and discomfort around menstruation, but although many believe the hype, only a tiny minority - between 1.5 and 5 percent - experience premenstrual mood changes like depression, anger or irritability, which can affect relationships.
Ussher said that a Canadian review of 47 scientific studies found "only 15 percent reported increased negative mood premenstrually", the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
In 40 percent of the studies there was no association between mood and the menstrual cycle and 40 percent reported negative mood in the premenstrual and menstrual phases.
The fact that premenstrual syndrome appears to be an exclusively Western ailment adds to the picture of it as a cultural construct.
Women studied in China, India and Hong Kong either don't report negative moods premenstrually or don't attribute them to PMS, Ussher said.
She says that women self-silence themselves for three weeks each month by trying to be nice to everybody and trying to cope, but in the fourth week they have a 'socially sanctioned reason to be angry and cranky'.
Their periodic understandable reaction to the stresses, which is invariably dismissed as PMS gives rise to the frustration, thereby putting an end to the cycle of self-silencing.
According to Ussher, severe cases of monthly moodiness are more common among women in their mid-30s or older with multiple responsibilities, women with relationship difficulties, or whose partners provide little understanding and support.
However, she does not blame men but does say that the partner's response is very important in terms of how she copes but also the cause of the premenstrual anger and irritation is really the partner'.
The study has been published online in The Conversation.