Premenstrual syndrome (also known as PMS) encompasses a range of physical and emotional symptoms, over two hundred in all, that women can experience prior to their menstruation period. About 90% of women experience some form of PMS symptoms every month, and no two women experience these symptoms and their severity in exactly the same way. The cause of PMS remains elusive for researchers: some even claim that PMS doesn’t exist! Medical consensus, however, suggests that PMS is related to hormonal change.
Symptoms usually resolve with the onset of the menses. The time frame for experiencing symptoms can range from a couple of weeks to several days prior to a women’s period. Regardless of length, life can be impacted in numerous ways; some women claim they “turn into a totally different person; one who is hard to live with.” These symptoms can make it difficult for a woman to be herself at this time.
- Skin outbreaks
- Tender breasts
- Bloating, achiness or headaches
- Fatigue or poor sleep
The physical manifestations of PMS may be somewhat manageable through medication, diet, and exercise. However, the emotional symptoms of PMS may be more difficult to manage:
- Anxiety, depression and loss of libido
- Increased anger and irritability
- Extreme sensitivity, feeling overwhelmed, wanting to withdraw
- Mood changes
What treatments work?
Although PMS symptoms can be negotiated from time to time, when they begin to affect your life in a disruptive way they may have to be mediated. If your symptoms interfere with your daily life, please seek professional help. Checking in with your GP and discussing pharmacological support is an excellent place to start.
Lifestyle is the first course of treatment beyond the doctor’s office. As such, self-care is essential. Consider your diet and ask how can you can eat more healthily. For instance, eliminating salt and caffeine pre-menstrually. You can also increase movement and exercise to reduce your level of stress.
How does counselling work for PMS?
Your therapist may suggest Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to help you manage symptoms such as mood swings, depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns commonly associated with PMS. CBT emphasises learning how to handle negative thought processes. It begins with identifying and understanding them and the situations and patterns that elicit them. The focus then shifts towards implementing strategies to deal with them.
Researchers believe that CBT may help women better understand and cope with the hormonal changes affecting their behavior, mood, and thinking throughout the menstrual cycle. CBT can even assist with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). This is the most severe form of PMS. PMDD involves a more intense psychological vulnerability to mood instability and affects up to 8% of the female population.
You may also be introduced to progressive relaxation and mindfulness techniques to aid stress reduction. Stopping and “grounding” in your present moment whilst doing belly breathing is one of the life techniques that is part of our “mood shifting” program.
Tackling Your Concerns Through Multiple Disciplines
Our allied health team at Direct Focus Solutions uses a multidisciplinary approach to form collaborative care for our clients. You may have the opportunity to chat with a dietician, learn mood movement from an Occupational Therapist, or even cognitive work from your counsellor. We may also incorporate psychotherapy, counselling, biofeedback training and performance enhancement techniques to tailor an individual treatment program just for your needs.