Premenstrual syndrome is being added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV, the latest edition of the mental health bible. But not without a fight.
At an American Psychological Association conference on women's health, the voice of Australian psychologist Elizabeth Harding, Ph.D., rose above the din to call the disorder's very existence into question.
Harding asked 101 University of Melbourne employees to fill out daily diaries on stress and health for 10 weeks. Not one reported mood changes meeting the diagnostic criteria for PMS for two consecutive cycles. Yet 40 percent of the participants said they suffered from the disorder.
"When I looked at the actual patterns of the women who said they had PMS, there was no association with mood and cycle," Harding reports. They were as likely to say they thought they had PMS whether they showed postmenstrual change, occasional menstrual change, or no change at all. "It's as if this label allows them a socially sanctioned time of month to be irritable."
About 18 percent of the women she studied occasionally showed marked premenstrual mood change. But emotional change was really not very different among women who, because of age or hysterectomy, were not menstruating.