A women's health expert claims that pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a "cultural" myth causing women to put their emotions down to hormones.

Western Sydney University women's health psychology professor Jane Usher said on a podcast called Clue Hormonal that women believe they have PMS symptoms due to "social conditioning", reports the Daily Mail UK.

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"Symptoms and illnesses are always culturally located," she said.


"So if you go to different cultures, different points in history we have symptom complexes, which is what we see as legitimate illnesses and ways that we report distress."

Usher said the origin of PMS can be dated back to 1931 when women were diagnosed with "hysteria", associated with their reproductive system.

"In the UK, US and Australia we have taken up this pathologising discourse around the menstrual cycle.

'We expect women to be mad or bad or dangerous and women take that up and feel irritable and feel angry and then they blame it on their bodies."

She said that women from other cultures didn't typically report emotional distress from their cycles, but began to if they moved to Western countries.

Women will blame emotional distress on their periods rather than things like their work or relationships, said Usher, and those in stable relationships were less likely to report symptoms than those in unhappy relationships, she said.

Women in unhappy relationships report worse symptoms of PMS than those in happy couples, Usher says. Photo / 123rf
Women in unhappy relationships report worse symptoms of PMS than those in happy couples, Usher says. Photo / 123rf

Usher said women would talk about fights with their partner or children when talking about PMS, rather than physical symptoms.

One woman told her she was "standing at the kitchen sink, I was doing the dishes, I had the dinner on the stove, the kids were arguing. I was trying to get them to do homework and I looked out into the garden and my husband was sat drinking a beer".


Usher said: "She told me that was her PMS and she was feeling really, really angry and she yelled and felt really bad about herself."

"She said 'That's just typical PMS' ... I would say that's more about what's going on between her and her partner and less about her cycle."

Usher said women in supportive relationships report fewer symptoms of emotional stress

"What's useful to do is think - maybe it's about asking for support and getting the partner on board.

"In fact what we saw that in those relationships, where women have that support, they're less likely to report signs of pre-menstrual stress."