PMS Blues

The PMS Blues

Many women struggle with the "PMS Blues," a cluster of symptoms that interfere with day to day activities and affect quality of life for a few days to a couple of weeks before menstruation. The emotional symptoms of PMS include:
  • sudden and frequent mood swings
  • irritability
  • crying spells
  • depression
  • anxiety
Some women also have trouble concentrating, sleep poorly, and have sudden food cravings. Usually, the symptoms are irritating but not debilitating. In some cases, the symptoms become more severe, and these women are diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).


Women who have PMDD may experience more serious depression, a marked lack of interest in usually enjoyable activities, overwhelming anger or anxiety, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, cognitive problems such as an inability to concentrate and difficulties with short term memory, insomnia or oversleeping, fatigue, changes in eating habits - eating either too much or too little, headaches, joint pain, and muscle aches. No one is sure why some women are affected so much worse than others. PMDD often occurs together with clinical depression, but not always. Some psychiatrist believe that another psychiatric condition may be at the heart of the problem, and that the hormonal fluctuations during the premenstrual period exacerbate the underlying condition.

The Cause of Emotional Symptoms of PMS

During the premenstrual period, hormones fluctuate. Levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, are also affected. Serotonin is one of the main signaling chemicals in the brain. It is involved in modulating many diverse behaviors such as sleeping, eating, and having sex. It also plays a part in controlling body temperature and regulating mood. When serotonin levels drop, or when the body is not appropriately utilizing serotonin, it causes disturbances in all the functions usually controlled by serotonin. The current theory holds that it is this deregulation of serotonin which is to blame for the emotional, as well as many of the physical, symptoms of PMS.

The Interaction of Physical and Emotional Symptoms in PMS

Often, women who are feeling achy, tired, or upset due to PMS will forgo their exercise routine. Exercise bolsters endorphin production. Endorphins are the bodies own opiates, they reduce pain and make people happy. Exercise also relieves stress and helps regulate mood. Thus, when women don't exercise because of PMS, they are depriving themselves of an activity that could help alleviate many of the symptoms they are struggling with. In addition, the discomfort of bloating and weight gain may add to a woman's misery. Trouble sleeping, another common symptom of PMS, can also have very negative effects on mood. Therefore, treating these physical symptoms of PMS may do much to improve the emotional symptoms.

Treatments for the Emotional Symptoms of PMS

Regular exercise and diet can be very beneficial to women with PMS. Including more magnesium and calcium in the diet, either through food or supplements, can relieve many of the symptoms, both physical and emotional. Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as gardening or yoga, along with getting adequate amounts of sleep, is often enough to completely alleviate symptoms.

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