Despite the fact that some 40 percent of women suffer from PMS symptoms at some point in their lives, there remains a lack of research funding to find cures and pain management techniques for those with severe symptoms. The symptoms of PMS are broad, ranging from pain to swollen breasts, bloating, cramps, irritability and depression. For women with PMDD, a more severe form of PMS that reportedly affects the daily life of some 4-8 percent of sufferers, such symptoms can be debilitating. The exact causes behind the symptoms of PMS are extremely difficult to pinpoint. Researchers originally attributed them to hormone fluctuations, however it may be that severe forms of PMS may be more related to the way women respond to hormones, rather than the actual levels of hormones in the body.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has released an official set of guidelines that recommend treating women suffering from PMS and PPMD with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of structured and ongoing psychotherapy designed to train people suffering from various disorders (such as bipolar disorder, panic disorder, addictions and even schizophrenia, to name just a few) to identify and manage intense emotions and behaviors on their own.
The recommendations could be a huge leap forward in women’s health to the extent that they address the (sometimes severe) psychological effects of PMS and PMDD that are challenging to assess and treat. On the flipside, this move may also serve to reinforce the common idea that PMS symptoms are entirely psychological, therefore lessening the push for research funding. The recommendation notes that using CBT could help women stop relying on drugs that can cause negative side effects. It also notes the importance of CBT in conjunction with other treatments such as hormone therapy, birth control options, vitamins and/or supplements, and anti-depressants.