Premenstrual Experience, Premenstrual Syndrome, and Dysphoric Disorder

  • Margarita Sáenz-HerreroEmail author
  • Aida Sanchez-Palacios
  • Miriam Santamaria
  • Irantzu Lago-Santos


The major criticisms made to the conceptualization of PMDD as a clinical syndrome focus on pathologizing of women’s biology and its consequent medicalization which perpetuated misconceptions related to menses. This is a reality in History of Medicine. The excessive medicalization of the menstrual experience that interferes in life is very important in Western countries. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a health problem that affects millions of women of reproductive age and, in some cases, may be severe enough to be considered as a premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Both, PMS and PMDD, are composed by affective, behavioural, and physical symptoms. Risk factors identified, which predispose to PMS/PMDD, are the age between 25 and 35 years, to have a psychiatric history, family history of PMDD, unhealthy living habits, and the apparition of stressful life events. In addition to that, it has been established a comorbidity of PMDD with various psychiatric disorders as major depression and anxiety disorders. The first-line treatment for PMDD is pharmacological with SSRIs. From the medical point of view, there is some evidence of the efficacy of non-pharmacological treatments such as relaxation and aerobic and cognitive behavioural therapy that are used mostly in mild cases. Some authors remind us the historical and negative conceptions about the female body plus a reproductivist vision, as the cause of many women’s behaviour, have had a determinate influence in the consideration about women’s experience as diseases. In our opinion, we consider it is important to rethink about it and talk about premenstrual experience instead of syndrome. It could be used to reinforce and maintain the patriarchal model. If women are treated medically because of their own biology, they would respond again to the female stereotype of women as mild, placid, and undemanding. At the same time, for some women could represent an attractive explanation to justify their oppression and their relative lack of success compared to men. This means that women can attribute their subordination and oppression to something identifiable and potentially curable, rather than attributing to gender power relations. Finally, the concept clearly benefits to the pharmaceutical industry, as the medicalization of premenstrual experiences increased their market.


Premenstrual experience Premenstrual syndrome Dysphoric disorders Hormonal influences Psychopathology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Margarita Sáenz-Herrero
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aida Sanchez-Palacios
    • 3
  • Miriam Santamaria
    • 4
  • Irantzu Lago-Santos
    • 3
  1. 1.University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHULeioaSpain
  2. 2.Cruces University HospitalBilbaoSpain
  3. 3.Bizkaia Mental Health ServicesBilbaoSpain
  4. 4.Private ConsultationMadridSpain

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