Are You PMS-ing?

When irritation begins to perk it’s ears at my emotional state, often one of the first questions I’ll hear from a particular friend is “Are you PMS-ing?”

No, actually, I am not.  And, now my irritation is harder to ignore because you want to invalidate my feelings by chalking them up to hormones.

(Wait maybe I am PMS-ing, because now that comment is really getting to me, and now I feel guilty for directing my irritation at you… SPIRAL!)

As a feminist, the real crux is physiology and how that should/does affect our behaviors as women and interactions with the opposite sex and with each other.  Women have a stereotypical reputation for being more emotional than men, for having that once-a-month thing turn us into emotional, raging hormone-soaked she-monsters that do nothing but cry and eat ice-cream and whine and blow up at the tiniest things.

So, when I was working through the irritation of dealing with the new scratch and dent in my shiny new car (a valid reason for being irritated, I think), and really working to let it go because there’s just no way I’m going to spend the money it would take to repair the completely cosmetic damage to my car, and my friend asks me if I’m PMS-ing, it just drove me nuts!  I didn’t lose it or anything, but I suddenly had no desire to continue the conversation with her.  I think it’s probably a fair question to rule it out, but does that really have to be the first question that comes up every time something “emotional” comes up?

Now I know that hormones have a very real effect on our emotional state, and it can be really tough to sort out when it is or isn’t a factor.  I’ve never been pregnant, but I know from friends that it can really screw you up hormonally/emotionally.  And, I’ve definitely had those “times of the month” when thing just seem more dire, and it passes once the leaking and cramping pass.  But, in this case, I just wanted to find a way to deal with walking up to my car every day, seeing the damage, and not being angry or annoyed that it’s exterior is no longer flawless.  What’s that you say? “But girls don’t care about cars!”  grrrrrr!

Have you found that “PMS-ing” affects your interactions?  Do you find that people dismiss your concerns because it’s “probably hormonal?”  And, how do you deal with that?



  1. Definitely irritating. Regardless of whether PMS is currently affecting your mood.
    Things (including physical stuff) affect men too. Does anyone stop a man and ask
    “Are you currently stressed about your job? Maybe you are blowing this out of proportion because of job stress?”
    “Are you mid-life crisising? Maybe you are being unreasonable because you are in the throws of mid-life crisis?”
    “Did your girlfriend just break up with you? Because you seem extra upset.”
    “Dude, you need to get laid or something! You seem really stressed out.”
    Personally, I can tell when my husband is stressed about his job. It affects his behavior. I can also tell when he hasn’t had sex in a while, so hormones definitely affect his behavior.

    • OFF COURSE its because your PMSing. Or like the other girl said she can tell when her husband hasn’t get laid…OF COURSE THATS why. The difference is, if a guy is being frustrated all day and a girl goes “Why are you so stressed, is it because we haven’t had sex all week” he will happily admit thats the reason.

      But a PMSin women who is OBVIOUSLY PMSin will sit there and deny it, like everyone around her is the one being the a-hole.

  2. This is such hard subject. I’ve heard that in the past the very idea of PMS was written off as silly women imagining that something might be affecting their moods and physical state. Now that we know more about hormones and whatnot we know that some women experience PMS (some have it so bad it’s near crippling), but now it’s used to dismiss every variation in a woman’s mood as something caused by hormones and therefore of no real consequence. In other words we’re still just silly women imagining things.

    Anyways, yes my hormones can effect my moods, but that doesn’t make my experience of my feelings any less real. Furthermore being visibly upset isn’t the same thing as being mean or rude. At the same time, I’m a big proponent of the idea that explanations aren’t excuses. My physical state might explain why I feel so upset about something, but it doesn’t excuse lashing out, or being mean, or other inappropriate behaviors.

    Oddly enough the worst bout of bad mood I’ve had was caused by hunger rather than pms. It was on a road trip, I was underfed, and I was grumpy about everything. When we figured that out the trip got a lot better.

  3. I hate it when people tell me “You must be PMS-ing” Aaarrgh. I really make a super human effort not to get out of control and I think I do very well. And when I think I’m doing really well, one of my kids will say “did you take your pill this morning”. Yeesh! and it wasn’t even my PMS-ing time!! It’s so easy to blame PMS when it isn’t and I get mad with people who use that as an excuse instead of being understanding. People just need to take the time to find out what is wrong with me, when I don’t know what’s wrong with me! – I’m approachable any time of the month!

  4. Ah, the “Put the baseball bat down, Dear” Department for some couples? 😉 Read on.

    “Dude, you need to get laid or something! You seem really stressed out.”

    I’ve been told this, so that type of thinking DOES happen to Men from Men!

    My sisters got PMS really bad mood wise, years before detailed research was done about it. It’s real, but it’s hard to know how bad it gets in the women I’m around. And, if you ask women if they’re having PMS, it’s a balancing act of invasion of privacy versus understanding why they are hard to deal with at that moment.

    I noticed with my daughter that if I suggested she was having PMS when she was grumpy, she would get mad if it was not PMS. Yet, I could make the correlation of when she would yell & complain more than normal, then she would ask for me to buy feminine products a few days later for her. Once, she said “My boyfriend thinks I have PMS, but I don’t think I do.” My reply was “yes, you do have it”. She laughed about it, a little embarrassed.

    And, my wife used to be critical of my sisters having trouble with PMS. Some years later, my wife started getting it pretty bad. So, turnaround does happen about this, Ladies, so don’t be too critical of other women about this.

    Yes, being hungry, or sick, can mimic PMS.

  5. The PMS comments irk me a lot. The first time I personally ran into the PMS-makes-women-emotional-so-let’s-diminish-their-feelings attitude was in seventh grade in band class. There were two kids picking on another and it was bothering me a lot to the point where shy me stood up and told them off loudly, interrupting the entire class. One of the bullies, under his breath, whispered, “PMS.” I remember feeling so upset about being so flippantly ignored because I was NOT PMSing. In fact I did not even menstruate for the first time until a year later when I was in eighth grade. But I learned that as a woman, my passions can and will be easily dismissed simply because I have a vagina.

    During my pre-teen and teen years, my parents also wrote off my emotions as hormonal. It was very disempowering and I will NOT do that to my own children. Yes, sometimes it was hormonal, but doesn’t that mean I needed more understanding and care and not to be ignored?

    Oh this is definitely a soapbox issue for me.

  6. I hate that question and vow never to ask it (I’m sure I’ll bite my tongue after asking it of a future teenage daughter). I think part of what makes me mad is that it’s none of anyone’s business, and secondly, it takes away any blame for my emotions, thus not validating or comforting. Don’t we all have hormones flowing when we react emotionally? If I’m mad about something, don’t change the subject so that the way I feel can be possibly marked up to something physical. What about the obvious thing that made me mad?

    • If I’m mad about something, don’t change the subject so that the way I feel can be possibly marked up to something physical.
      I think that gets at the heart of what makes the question so insulting.
      Asking “are you PMS-ing?” very often translates to “do I need to care that you’re upset?”

      • Asking “are you PMS-ing?” very often translates to “do I need to care that you’re upset?”

        The only time, for me, when it isn’t this sort of thing is when my very best friends ask (because it’s often “me too, let’s make brownies together and complain about how our bodies work,” and I am a-okay with doing that.) or my fiance does, because he generally knows when I am, and then he knows not to take things personally (because to be honest, PMS can bring out the you-know-what in me) and suggest a nap (which I am pretty much always down for). Otherwise, it feels weird because it’s coming from people who don’t really understand where I’m coming from because they don’t know me, but assume they do, because I’m a lady,

  7. The two days before my period starts are horrible. I am short-tempered, irritable, angry at everything for no reason and want to strangle/stab everyone I meet. Also, all the songs on the radio annoy me. I have to turn the radio off for two days because, no matter what song is playing it makes me get road rage. I enjoy violent movies during these times that i do not enjoy watching at other times of the month.

    Knowing that it is my hormones and more or less out of my control helps me suppress it to some extent but it still sucks.

    It has only been this way since my period resumed after my son’s birth – it was not an issue before that. (and I had him at 27, so we’re talking FIFTEEN years of reproductive cycles before this.)

    Wikipedia says that the hormones involved in PMS follow the same reaction as someone going through opiate withdrawal. This also makes me feel slightly better about my misery. I’m so tough I can go through withdrawal every month and survive it!

  8. I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to severity of PMS. Since having my twins and weaning them I have had PMDD (the crippling PMS that Starfoxy mentioned). There have been months where there were one to three days where I literally couldn’t function (hubby had to work from home and take care of the kids and me), and the few days before those weren’t sunshine and lollipops either. The most frustrating thing was that it went undiagnosed for a long time because I have a history of depression and anxiety, and they wanted to write it off to that. Since getting off artificial hormone birth control and starting some natural remedies I have been doing much better, though I am still made very aware of my cycles.

    In contrast, before I had my kids it seemed that I didn’t have PMS at all. I had some cramps while I was menstruating sometimes but that was it. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t get moody sometimes or hear the dismissing remarks. The times I did feel that way just didn’t seem to be cyclical (which is what clued me into the PMDD).

    I think many of us have hit it on the head by pointing out the frustration of having our feelings invalidated. I think it would be worlds better if others at least said, “You know, your current mood is upsetting/concerning me right now,” giving voice to their own feelings that motivate the “are you PMS-ing?” remarks. At least that might open up a conversation to discuss what’s going on. The other stuff just seems so discussion ending, “Well, it’s just your hormones? Nothing to do then. Best just ignore it.” Umm yeah, even if it is just hormones there are things that can be done, that you can help with!

  9. You know, I’ve had this said to me and it’s bothered me for all these reasons and I’ve always stood my ground on the fact that whether or not my hormones were driving me to be more visibly or verbally upset about something, it didn’t change the fact that I had a valid reason to be upset and to express my frustration.

    But what always sticks out in my mind when talking about the perception of blaming a women’s behavior on her hormonal cycle, is the time when I did just that. I was in junior high and having a very bad day that produced a very bad mood that led to very bad behavior. And when my mom confronted me about it, I dramatically announced that I was on my period, as if it excused everything. Boy did I hear it. My mother told me to NEVER use that as an excuse for anything, ever. Somehow that really sunk deep at the time and I’ve never used factors outside of my control to excuse my bad behavior. It was a good lesson.

    • Corktree, I had a very similar experience with my mother when I was about 14. I was having a very bad PMS morning, got about half way to school and decided I just couldn’t deel with it, so I went back home. I didn’t expect my mother to be home, but she apparently was going into to her office late that day, and when I told her why I had come home, she really gave me the ultimate feminist lecture about how I would never be taken seriously if I used PMS or my periods as an excuse for not working hard, that as a woman I was going to have to work harder than men to be taken seriously anyway. Then she gave me two Exedrin and drove me back to school on her way to work. It was a lesson I have never forgotten these 40+ years later.
      As for being asked if I’m PMSing…my husband learned early on in our marriage that that question was off-limits (even if it was true), because it does invalidate what a woman is feeling.
      Now I am post-menepausal and my hormones seem to have evened themselves out and it really isn’t an issue at all–so nice.

  10. I have only been asked once if I was PMSing. Because of conservative nature of the guy who asked, I was so shocked that I disregarded it. BUT… in the last couple of years, I have been in seminars that address some PMS as depression-triggering… that is to say that some women become even suicidal with the flux in hormones, and it isn’t limited to PMS- it includes the pill, IVF and hormone medications such as insulin and others. But as a result of the idea that PMS means women are emotionally ridiculous and hyper-sensitive, the real issues are belittled. Any way you look at it, degrading women’s emotional responses to anything as PMS is dismissive, ignorant and downright sexist.

    That being said, I have a friend who freaks out on occasion, and apologizes later- blaming it all on PMS. She is my friend, and I love her and support her, but it is difficult to be in a position where I feel forced to forgive her, because she blames her unkind behavior on PMS.

  11. I can’t remember the last time I heard that question. It almost never comes up. But I do ask it of myself, among other questions when I find myself reacting forcefully to something. Yesterday after I finished accompanying a soloist with a particularly difficult piece the visiting authority who spoke after our performance looked at her sitting next to me on the front row and thanked her by name but did not mention me. I am used to this, but I was hurt by the omission far more than usual. When I realized that my blood sugar was crashing at that moment I was able to put the hurt in perspective and focus on taking care of myself.

    For that reason if I ever have daughters I will definitely bring up the possibility of PMS when they are unusually emotional. But it will be in the context of teaching them to be aware of how their physical states affect their emotional resilience. PMS will be the only gender specific item on the list and it will be at the end of a long list of possibilities I’ll teach any future sons as well: are you hungry, are you tired, did you eat a lot of junk food recently, have you been too sedentary, have you been stuck inside all day?

    Or maybe I’ll keep things simple as my mom did: have you prayed and have you exercised?

    • Good insight, Becky. I think that the whole “are you PMSing?” question has gotten a bad rap because many people have used it in a belittling way. It has such negative connotations. But, perhaps, like Becky pointed out, it could be used in a kinder way to draw attention the role our hormones DO play in our moods at times. I think that there are times when we as young women or older women can be confused at our feelings. When we can understand that perhaps our hormones are playing a role, we can allow ourselves to emotionally step aside, or take some time before making a decision or reacting to make sure it’s not “just the hormones”. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not- even if you are PMSing! But, it was helpful for me to know, as a teenager, that this could affect my mood and my feelings, so I tried to take a little time out. I also agree with a few comments above. They spoke about how their mothers taught them not to use this as an excuse for bad behavior. I have definitely seen the PMS excuse overused for unacceptable behavior. I think there is a small percentage of people for whom this is a legitimate problem, and when the rest of us use this as an excuse for being out of control, I think we diminish the legitimate problem some are going through.
      OK, enough of my soapbox. Interesting post and interesting thoughts. THanks!

  12. I’ve only been asked this once. By a boyfriend. I was not on my period, just reeling from his stupidity. I learned from the age of first having my period to never use it as an excuse…however, that left me many years of giving myself a hard time when I would have a very real PMS day. I would bottle things up inside, be super irritated but never let it show and just go home and take it out on chocolate and indulging in bad foods. I’m trying, in the last few years, to be more kind and patient with the fact that I have PMS (because I tell everyone I don’t and I don’t admit it even to myself). I don’t get it to the extent of other people I know, but I’m also fooling myself when I say it just “never affects me”.

  13. I like this explanation: for your period to occur, your estrogen level has to drop. That’s what causes you to bleed. So, proportionately, during PMS, women have more testosterone in their system than they usually do.

    In other words, women experiencing PMS are acting more like men.

    While during most of the month we put up with offenses and say nothing, and just let it go, and are passive, etc., during that time of the month, when someone steps on our toes, we’re not nearly as willing to put up with it.

    I like it.

  14. I am someone who Does get very emotional right before my period. For instance, I cry almost exactly once a month. When my period finally starts, I am usually so relieved to know why I was feeling so terrible. But, at the same time, the things that upset me then are real things that often do need to be addressed. My menstrual cycle just heightens them, perhaps a little too intensely. I have been doing a much better job keeping track of my cycle and it has made an immense difference to have that power and knowledge of when and why I feel the way I do.

  15. Hoooo yeah!!!! I get REALLY short tempered and sensitive when I’m PMSing!!!! It’s like this b*tch/drama queen/cry baby takes over my sweet, gentle nature for about 1-2 weeks before my period! And I do wish people would understand that they shouldn’t disregard my reactions to situations because it’s “Probably just hormonal.” If guys had menstrual cycles, then they’d totally understand that us ladies DON’T WANT to bawl our eyes out or blow up at even the most legit things for 1-2 weeks every month!

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