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A review of the clinical and practical implications of the premenstural syndrome

1 July 1988


This paper is a discussion of the phenomenon of the Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). While the diagnosis of PMS is currently in popular use, there is little clear information about its causation and treatment. The use of the diagnosis has strong implications both for women who are diagnosed and for psychologists as clinicians and researchers. Early sections briefly review the theories and research around the phenomenon of the Premenstrual Syndrome and demonstrate that, while many hypotheses have been generated and case examples cited, little has been clearly demonstrated in replicable studies about the causation and effective treatment of the syndrome. There are a number of symptoms and symptom groupings that have been linked to the syndrome, and some researchers theorize that the Premenstrual Syndrome is actually several syndromes that reflect differing etiologies and symptom groupings. In addition to the difficulties with establishing the syndrome's parameters and causation, there are problems with the social use of the diagnosis. Negative cultural beliefs about menstruation persist, as do sociobiological theories that explain women's unequal social status as predetermined rather than culturally based. The Premenstrual Syndrome is often used in making negative causal inferences about behavior, a dynamic that seems to be responsible for the inflated figures about the incidence of the phenomenon. In evaluating the information available it becomes apparent that clear guidelines are not available for the clinician who addresses this diagnosis with clients. A discussion of the implications for the clinician of the information gathered thus far follows, including some suggestions for therapeutic approaches. The role of the clinician as researcher is an important one in unraveling PMS and suggestions are made for the collection of data. Additionally, general suggestions for future research are made.


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