Premenstrual Mood Disorders

A feminist psychosocial perspective

Authored by: Jane M. Ussher , Janette Perz

Routledge International Handbook of Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Print publication date:  October  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138490260
eBook ISBN: 9781351035620
Adobe ISBN:


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Premenstrual mood disorders (PMDs) include a range of emotional and behavioural symptoms that can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle. Within the annals of biomedicine, PMDs are positioned as a biological phenomenon, an extreme variant of a physiological influence of sex steroids on the brain and other organs. However, the very notion of premenstrual change as deserving of “diagnosis” has been questioned by many feminist critics. Biomedical theories and interventions have also been criticised for not taking account of the complex mechanisms underlying premenstrual distress, which are not adequately accounted for by physiology alone. In this chapter, we adopt a feminist psychosocial perspective, and draw on a series of research studies we have conducted in the UK and Australia, to examine women’s experience of premenstrual distress and strategies of coping. We adopt a material-discursive-intrapsychic (MDI) model, which provides a multidimensional analysis of the interconnections between the embodied and psychological experience of premenstrual change; the material and relational context of women’s lives that may precipitate distress; socially constructed representations of PMDs and the premenstrual woman; and the psychological negotiation in which women engage to make sense of their experience. As part of this analysis we examine premenstrual distress across cultural contexts; premenstrual embodiment; self-objectification and dehumanisation; the relational context of PMDs across heterosexual and lesbian relationships; and women’s negotiation of negative premenstrual change.

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