“Dealing with PMS,” Ensign, Sept. 1986, 66–67
Latter-day Saint women strive to develop Christlike qualities such as love, patience, service, industry, and self-discipline. But once a month some find themselves taking a despairing detour called PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome).
“I feel like I turn into a witch,” says one woman of her struggle with PMS.
“I can’t handle anything,” says another.
The conflict between high expectations and regressive behavior can produce feelings of guilt and depression for many women. Working toward perfection can seem an awesome task when you are beset with a monthly condition that can cause severe mood swings, anxiety, anger, feelings of rejection, nervousness, loneliness, abdominal bloating, acne, asthma, and dizziness, or any of over 150 other symptoms.
Researchers estimate that, to some degree, PMS affects as many as 40 to 60 percent of all women. Though the cause is unknown, Dr. Katharina Dalton, the British pioneer in the field of PMS, suggests it may be a deficiency of progesterone in relation to the amount of estrogen present before menstruation. Other authorities believe it isn’t that simple.
Dr. Ronald Norris established the first American clinic to evaluate and treat women with pre-menstrual syndrome in 1981. He says the symptoms may be the “red flags of several different malfunctions of the endocrine system.”
Dr. William Keye, a reproductive endocrinologist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah Medical Center, agrees. He has been doing research on PMS for three years. “PMS is not a single disease,” he says. “It can be caused by a variety of medical conditions.”
According to Dr. Keye, “women who have had PMS symptoms repeatedly, month after month, begin to develop behavioral changes: nagging, withdrawal, hysteria, restlessness, intolerance, increased sleep, and poor concentration.
These behaviors may lead to secondary psychological reactions such as low self-esteem, guilt, shame, fear of going crazy, unassertiveness, low tolerance to stress, poor impulse control, self-defeating behavior, and hopelessness.”
Though there is no single cure for PMS and no two women respond exactly the same way to the same treatment, there are ways to control the symptoms. The following steps can help:
1. Chart your physical, psychological, emotional, and behavioral symptoms daily for two to three months.
2. Take this chart to a physician who is knowledgeable about PMS. From your chart of symptoms, your doctor will be able to determine whether you are suffering from PMS or from some other condition. If you have PMS, your doctor may advise treatments such as improvements in diet, exercise, stress management, vitamin supplements, and possibly progesterone therapy or counseling—depending on the severity of your symptoms.
3. Make an honest appraisal of your capacity to accomplish tasks. “Don’t take on too much,” Dr. Keye advises. “Plan ahead for the bad weeks. Counsel with your family to help you through the tough times. Explain to them that this is a medical condition—something that happens to your biochemistry.”
Treatment can help lessen many symptoms. However, a woman may still suffer from some of them. During such times, it is often helpful to realize that PMS is a monthly condition that will pass. Unless she is suffering from some other physical or emotional disorder in addition to PMS, a woman will soon begin to feel like herself again.
For help in dealing with the “bad times,” which for many women seem to bring insurmountable problems and feelings of despair, a woman might want to seek a priesthood blessing. As one sister explains, “Priesthood blessings give me hope when I feel hopeless. I gain courage from the belief that someday I will conquer PMS—or at least, for now, endure it.”
PMS can also make the sufferer feel unresponsive to the Spirit. Although it may be difficult when one is emotionally and physically spent, praying and reading the scriptures can bring comfort and strength. Heavenly Father understands the state of his daughters’ minds and bodies and will extend his love and support if they will approach him in humility.
Though PMS is physical in nature, to the Lord all things are spiritual. Perhaps, as one enlightened sufferer said, “PMS may serve as a type of refining fire. Because it is so difficult to cope alone, we are brought to seek after the Lord more intensely and, because of our dependence, gain strength and a deeper compassion for other struggling souls.
“And during those times when we feel we just can’t handle it one minute more, perhaps we can give the response Nephi gave when he said, ‘I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meanings of all things.’ (1 Ne. 11:17.) Although we may not understand why we suffer, we can take courage from the knowledge that God loves us. And for the moment, that is enough.”—Karen Fisher, Millville, Utah