By JAYASHRI KULKARNI
PMS isn’t real.
Well, according to several recent academic studies it isn’t and as a result, it is starting to become an accepted norm: that when it comes to PMS, women are just ‘looking for an excuse’.
This puzzlingly widespread belief needs challenging, as it perpetuates negative concepts linking female reproduction with negative emotionality.
So why are we having this debate again anyway?
Firstly, many opinions about the existence of PMS are fuelled by personal philosophy and politics, rather than by reason and good research.
Over the centuries, women have had to cope with dismissive views about their anger, depression or capabilities, and being labelled as “irrational” during “that time of the month”.
In the 1970s, feminists fought hard against the concept of hormone influences on women’s behaviour in their struggle to achieve equality for women. It was important back then to dismiss women’s biology as the only determining factor of her life.
Today, we don’t have to take the view that women’s biology, including their hormone profiles, are unimportant. We can reclaim biology and integrate it with the psychological plus social contexts to see that PMS does exist and does cause real suffering for many women.
Second, a vast body of neuroscience work is being ignored by the media – in favour of these studies which proclaim that PMS is all in women’s heads.
The evidence (from many studies) about the integration of hormones with mental processes is now well established.
Some women suffer from physical and mental disorders that become worse cyclically – migraines and epilepsy are well-accepted examples.
Every disorder has a biological, psychological and social context. It is just that with many physical illnesses, there’s the capacity to actually see the tissue damage, or measure markers of the illness, while mental disorders are difficult to measure or visualise in the same way.
This leaves debates about the existence of certain conditions, such as PMS, open to ideologically-motivated opinions rather than evidence-based realities.
In addition to a lack of neuroscientific understanding, the current PMS debate is defined by a lack of consideration for social context.