What is the Connection Between PMS and Mood Swings?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2018
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The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is still unclear, but the connection between PMS and mood swings has been well established. It is believed that more than 30 percent of women suffer from severe mood swings in the days leading up to menstruation. Most studies indicate that the root cause is elevated levels of the hormone estrogen, but exactly how those levels work within the chemistry of the brain is still being studied. One paradox that tends to disrupt the theory is that women who are going through menopause, who typically have low levels of estrogen, often experience mood swings similar in nature to PMS. Studies are being done to help fully understand how estrogen affects mood.

PMS and mood swings that accompany it are believed to be the result of what is called estrogen dominance. During the days leading up to menstruation, progesterone should be the dominating hormone, however, in women who suffer from PMS, progesterone levels are down, while estrogen levels are up. This condition can often lead to mood swings, severe bloating, and headache. Women who suffer the condition often experience the symptoms during the week leading up to menstruation and for a couple of days after bleeding begins. After that, their hormone levels seem to balance, and most of the symptoms disappear.


Some studies indicate that PMS and mood swings may be related to diet. Women in the Western world seem to have higher incidence of PMS than women in other parts of the world. In addition, overweight women are at higher risk of developing the condition than are women who are at normal weight. Furthermore, women who are underweight are the least likely to suffer from PMS when compared to normal and overweight women. This seems to indicate that body mass index plays an important role in PMS and mood swings.

Treatment for PMS and mood swings usually depends on the severity of the condition. For many women, the symptoms are mild, and only last for a few days, and in these instances, treatment may not be indicated. In other women, the symptoms are so severe that aggressive treatment is called for, which may include antidepressants and diuretics. For some women, birth control pills sometimes help balance estrogen levels. For women with the most severe form of PMS, which is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), doctors sometimes use drug injections that halt the process of ovulation.



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