MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s such a widely-held belief, it seems absurd to even question it. Many women go through symptoms around their “time of the month,” but researchers are wondering if PMS is a myth?

“I get really emotional, really upset about things I should not be getting upset about,” said Crystal Klein.

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Researchers looked at all the English language studies on mood swings and menstrual cycle. Just 15 percent of them found the classic, social definition of PMS – mood swings in the seven days before menstruation.

“I would say the social definition is a myth,” said Dr. Carrie Ann Terrell, director of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Minnesota Physicians.

“There may be a grey zone,” she added. “It may not be black and white; you have it, you don’t. Could there be a PMS in between? That’s what this study was looking at.”

Researcher Dr. Sarah Romans wrote: “Taken together, these studies failed to provide clear evidence in support of the existence of a specific premenstrual negative mood syndrome in the general population.”

Thirty-eight percent of the studies found mood swings that maybe started pre-menstruation, but then lasted into the cycle.

“During menses women can have…cramping, they can be in pain,” Terrell said. “That can affect mood.”

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But that still leaves 47 percent of the studies with no real link between the menstrual cycle and mood swings.

“In my opinion, I really think it’s something that’s in your head,” Klein said. “I think it’s a reason for women to complain.”

“Women in today’s world are generally extremely stressed,” added Terrell. “It might be easier to say this is a hormonal problem than this is a lifestyle problem.”

According to Terrell, men go through a cycle of hormone changes every day, not every month.

“There are no studies that I know of reporting male daily mood swings,” she said. If hormones were a driver of mood change, she explained, you might expect to see some of that.

This is not to say that the symptoms aren’t real, the doctor stressed. Plus, approximately 10 percent of women suffer from PMDD, Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Women with PMDD suffer depression and anxiety on a schedule that consistently lines up with the premenstrual period.

But for the general definition of PMS, according to the research, is that it’s not a useful term.

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“Not clinically, diagnostically. It’s more of a social term,” Terrell said. “It’s more useful if women are having problems, complaints, or symptoms to address those.”

Jason DeRusha