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by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
The medical headlines have been full of proclamations recently claiming that PMS is a myth, because of a recent study that was published in the journal “Gender Medicine” and came from a research group based at the University of Toronto.
Well, PMS is not a myth. The researchers say that the emotions women experience around the time of their period may just be tiredness or stress, but these researchers apparently haven’t studied the basics of women’s physiology. Of course women are tired and stressed when they have PMS or PMDD! That doesn’t mean that the fatigue and stress are the cause of the PMS: it could be that the PMS is causing the tiredness and stress.
What’s more important is that, because research is almost always an attempt to nail down a single cause, this study ignores the holistic truth that hormones are affected by fatigue and stress, and vice versa. You can’t really isolate them from each other, and when you try to—as these researchers did—you end up ignoring common sense.
Journalists and the media usually have minimal knowledge of medicine, medical research, and human physiology, so they often tend to trumpet the latest research as the last word on a subject, even when that single headline-grabbing study contradicts hundreds of high quality studies that came before. Unfortunately, most of us have to get our medical news from sources that are simply not qualified to pass judgment on research, and shouldn’t be the ones making the decisions about what stories deserve headlines, and which deserve to be ignored.
Still, this story about “PMS is a myth” shouldn’t be ignored, because it keeps raising its ugly head, year after year.
PMS and PMDD are not a myth. They are real, physical conditions, caused by a combination of hormones, genetics, diet, stress, and psychological conditions (psychology has a physical-chemical component, of course.) And in case you’re wondering if there is any research to prove that PMS is not a myth, here’s some proof of the existence and seriousness of PMS and PMDD:
Just because some medical research makes the front page of the news or of your favorite website, that doesn’t mean it’s true. PMS and PMDD are real, and they have very real impacts in women’s lives.