The Overlooked Relation Between PMS and Anger in Women

People can get angry over everything and everyone, and it’s often the smallest of things that seem to make us angry. However, what we usually accept as the reason for our anger is often only the last straw, while the underlying cause for it can remain unknown altogether.

Case in point, there is a well-known and well-documented relation between our likelihood of getting irrationally angry, annoyed, anxious, or depressed, and the specific hormones released in our brains. And since we have little to no immediate control over the release of said hormones, they can cause us to suddenly lose control and get overwhelmed by a certain negative emotion.

Another well-known fact is that women are generally more emotional compared to men, which, again, has to do with the hormones released in a woman’s body and brain. There are many biological and evolutionary reasons for this, such as the need for a woman to have elevated empathy, as this allows her to intuitively understand the needs of her children, before the latter are able to verbally communicate them.

However, just as a woman’s hormones can be super useful, they can also make women more susceptible to being overtaken by emotion, especially during certain parts of their menstrual cycles, as the latter largely dictates what hormones get released at any given part of the month.

The difference between PMS and PMDD

We’ve all heard of PMS or premenstrual syndrome. It is a natural phenomenon characterized by temporary changes in a woman’s physical and mental state that occur between one or two weeks before the beginning of the next menstrual cycle. Common symptoms are tender breasts, overall fatigue, irritability, mood swings, food cravings, etc.

It is normal for a woman to feel on edge during her PMS, which could cause occasional outbursts of anger triggered by seemingly minor things. Therefore, if you ever experience symptoms like the ones mentioned above about a week or so before your next period is due, and if the symptoms are within acceptable limits, know that this is a normal part of being a woman, and that it’s up to the people around you to show understanding and compassion.

However, if your mood swings have become stronger than usual, and you find yourself utterly unable to control them, then you may be experiencing what is known as PMDD - premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Think of it as PMS on steroids - it’s much more intense, makes you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions almost all the time, and ends up having significant unwanted effects on your day-to-day life. Unfortunately, PMDD can be so crippling to a woman’s emotional state that some studies show that around 15% of women struggling with it have made attempts at suicide.

It is very important to understand the difference between PMS and PMDD, yet the majority of women are unaware that this disorder even exists. What’s even worse is that most health professionals are likely to dismiss the condition as a made up excuse for women to take a sick leave from work, which can make those struggling with it feel even more isolated and helpless.

Needless to say, such feelings of isolation, frustration, and helplessness, combined with the intense negative emotions felt during PMDD, can cause women to have sudden outbursts of anger which may seem totally unwarranted to an outside viewer.

PMDD is understudied and often misunderstood

There are a lot of reasons (some more valid than others) as to why there’s an extremely low awareness regarding PMDD in today’s society. For starters, there’s no small amount of skepticism towards the very existence of this disorder. At the same time, many fear that acknowledging PMDD can serve as yet another way to label women as irrational. A third reason is that there are concerns that pharmaceutical companies can leverage such a poorly-understood and under-researched condition for profit, by selling medications for treating PMDD that may not be necessary or effective.

Those, and many other reasons, have made the topic of PMDD murky and severely misunderstood, to the point where women struggling with the condition are often unlikely to find any actual informed help. Not only that, but many women with PMDD aren’t even aware of the existence of the disorder. The little research there is on this topic suggests that PMDD affects between three and eight percent of women worldwide - a rather large margin, and even so, it’s hard to say whether it accurately represents the reality of the situation.

Avoid self-diagnose

Being aware of the existence of this condition is important, especially if you feel debilitating and intense negative feelings right before the start of your next menstrual cycle. However, it is also important to not jump to any conclusions just because your PMS has been a bit more rough than usual in the past month or so. After all, there are many other factors at play here, such as work, children, family life, the weather, etc. That is why it’s essential that you give yourself some time to calm down and to take a break from the hectic every-day life that we are all living.

Also, remember that PMDD is still vastly under-researched, so while it’s a good thing to look for information, you should take the available data with a grain of salt, because most of it won’t be precise or come from any large-scale studies that can give a clearer picture of the situation surrounding the disorder.

Taking a practical approach

If you are currently struggling with anger and other intense negative emotions, and you think that they may be linked to hormonal changes that occur before your next menstrual cycle, then the best thing you can do is to educate yourself on helpful and practical techniques to help you clear your mind and calm your nerves.

One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is by signing up for an online anger management course, which can save you time by directly giving you the exact tools and techniques on how to take control of your anger, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed by intense negative emotions triggered by hormonal changes.