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Dealing with PMSCoping with PMS

The most troublesome aspect of this condition is that it also affects everyone else in our lives, our partner, our children, our friends, and co-workers.

PMS is one of those issues that is frequently discussed, and yet few resources have been spent to determine it's causes and how to overcome it. Research that has been done is somewhat conflicting and vague, as clinicians and other experts are often at odds on some issues. While obviously not classed as a disease, it's definitely brought on by a variety of physiological factors. Most experts agree that PMS has something to do with the imbalance of estrogen and progesterone in the latter part of the menstrual cycle, the adrenal hormones that control water retention, and also mood influencing chemical substances in the brain. Factors which serve to frustrate research efforts include the fact that diverse individuals experience different symptoms, varying in intensity and often defying measurement.

From the ages of approximately 27 through the late 30's, many women report that their symptoms worsen. This seems to point to a correlation between stress and PMS. It is not hard to imagine that women in this age group experience more severe bouts as they are often trying to juggle marriages, careers and young children - all of which can certainly contribute to increased stress levels. Hormone level changes including those experienced during pregnancy may either worsen or diminish the intensity of symptoms, although it is thought that the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy help reduce them. PMS varies in duration from individual to individual, but occurs most commonly from about 3 days in advance of your period until its onset.

A variety of physical symptoms are common among women experiencing PMS. The most prevalent of these symptoms include bloating, headaches, and swelling and tenderness in the breasts. Muscle and joint aches and pains, nausea, dizziness, acne, worsening of blood sugar level control in diabetes, decreased control over the onset of seizures for epileptics, constipation, changes in appetite, carbohydrate cravings, and extreme thirst are also experienced by large numbers of women.

The psychological symptoms that occur during PMS can be more serious and harder to control than the physical ones. Some of the most common include sudden mood swings, increased irritability, depression, generalized fatigue, hostility, anxiety and nervousness. Still others experience difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, confusion, increased pessimism, insomnia, restlessness, intense brooding, social withdrawal, lack of sexual desire, thoughts of suicide, decreased productivity, indecisiveness, general lethargy and crying spells. As extensive as this list may seem, it is only a fraction of reported symptoms.

Above and beyond the previously listed symptoms, women experiencing PMS seem to suffer even more consequences: sometimes we let it control us. We tend to lash out at the people around us, for many a few good rows with our partner is inevitable. You may notice the man in your life having to work late or go out with the boys more frequently during this period (he's pretty smart). Although our children don't always understand what is going on, they are equally affected by PMS. You may have a lower tolerance to the noise and mess, have a shorter fuse with them - causing you to scold over things for which you normally wouldn't. At work you may be abrupt with your co-workers, or notice that you are more critical of their work. It is common during this time for us to have more personal conflicts than at any other. Some women find this a particular problem, for some report extreme, even violent bouts of hostility. However, it is simply unacceptable to use PMS as an excuse to physically or verbally abuse anyone.


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