PMS Video Calls You An “Uncontrollable Hot Mess”

Calling women "moody" is like calling them "crazy": both need to stop. So, we were particularly disappointed to see the latest AsapSCIENCE video (which we usually love ) fall into that hole.
While PMS does exist, it doesn't turn women into wild, unpredictable she-beasts. There's increasing evidence that PMS is a "culture-bound syndrome," which means it has more to do with social expectations than actual biology. And, although "moodiness" is commonly cited as a symptom of PMS, the data is too contradictory and too complex to prove or disprove that belief. Here's what went wrong:

"There's a whole bunch of chemicals in my brain, and they're all out of whack. They're messing with my mind every single month."

As usual, the science is way more complicated than that. The hormones most often in question with PMS are estrogen and progesterone, both of which work in the brain and the rest of the body. But, the link between our hormones and any observed moodiness that may occur is still up for debate. There’s evidence to suggest that fluctuating hormone levels have almost nothing to do with the severity of cyclical mood changes. And, when women with PMS are given additional hormones, they don't demonstrate a change of mood. So, the hormones aren't to blame.

"Roughly 50-80% of women have experienced some degree of physical or psychological PMS symptom."

Having a PMS symptom doesn't necessarily mean you have PMS. And, statistics on its prevalence vary pretty widely. It's been estimated that between 13% and 30% of menstruating women have PMS, and a study that surveyed 108 women found that 17% of participants reported absolutely no PMS symptoms. In addition, a two-year study of 1,725 women in France found only 12% of them said they experienced symptoms of PMS. And, the proportion of Chinese women is 21%.

"The amygdala in the brain, which controls emotion, increases its activity."

The amygdala, which is part of the brain's limbic system, has long been associated with regulating emotional responses. But, simply "increasing its activity" could mean a number of different things. The study cited in the video was a small and included only 18 women, who underwent brain imaging to understand how neural mechanisms work within the amygdala. Extrapolating these results to illustrate something about "moodiness" is a stretch.


"One woman's PMS is not like the other, which is why health professionals have trouble finding a clear understanding of how it all works."

It's almost like PMS isn't a universally experienced, discrete set of symptoms that can be used to diagnose women's emotional states. Weird, huh?

Something that somehow didn't make it into the video — but should have — is birth control. Birth control is one of the most common influencers of a woman's menstrual cycle. Many birth control methods interact with our hormones, and many women using hormonal birth control methods see a reduction in PMS symptoms. But, it's certainly not the same for everyone. To complicate the issue even more, there's a high level of comorbidity between PMS and mood disorders, like anxiety and depression.

"Without the persistent nature of the menstruation cycle, our very existence as a species would be completely altered...So, thank you, women for being strong enough to put up with PMS and menstruation."

We should point out that women are not the only people who menstruate. And, there are plenty of people who identify as women who don't menstruate. So, while we appreciate being given props, we'd like to think we matter more than our menses.

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