Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Severe PMS Linked With Physical, Sexual Abuse In Childhood

Date:
November 13, 1998
Source:
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill
Summary:
More than half of women with a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome are likely to have histories of physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence, according to research by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- More than half of women with a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome are likely to have histories of physical or sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence, according to research by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The findings of this study apply to women diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). This psychiatric condition affects 5 to 10 percent of women in their childbearing years. It is characterized by bouts of major depression and/or anxiety during the second half of the menstrual cycle and severe irritability before subsiding with the onset of each menstrual period.

"About 50 to 60 percent of the PMDD women may have sexual or physical abuse histories. That is much greater than you would expect in the general population,about 20 to 25 percent," says the study's lead author, Dr. Susan S. Girdler, assistant professor of psychiatry at the UNC-CH School of Medicine.

"The severity of PMDD symptoms are as great or can be as great as those of women with full-blown major depression or major anxiety disorder," Girdler adds. "But what makes them different is that the symptoms are very time-limited and linked strongly with the women's menstrual cycle."

Girdler emphasizes that to qualify for PMDD, symptoms must be severe enough to interfere with everyday functioning -- to disrupt relationships, result in social withdrawal, even prompt thoughts of suicide. "We are talking about women who meet very stringent diagnostic criteria for PMDD. This is not the garden variety PMS."

In a report published Nov. 16 in Psychiatry Research, Girdler and her UNC colleagues from the UNC-CH departments of psychiatry and psychology and the School of Public Health note evidence showing that women diagnosed with PMDD also tend to have chronic stress in their lives on a daily basis. This finding, they say, confirms that of other studies and further supports an important role for stress, either as a cause of PMDD or in making its symptoms worse.

The study of 12 PMDD women and 12 healthy women without the disorder looked at responses to life-stress questionnaires, tests of anxiety and depression, and to several stressful experimental situations. These included a "speech stressor" test in which each study subject gave two three-minute talks on what her actions and emotional responses would be to hypothetical interpersonal "hassles." Scenarios included dealings with an inconsiderate houseguest and a used-car dealer. Cardiovascular measures were recorded, as were blood levels of the major stress hormones norepinephrine and cortisol.

In addition to finding evidence of greater chronic life stress and severe traumatic life stress, physiological abnormalities in the stress response system of women with PMDD were documented for the first time.

"We saw evidence that their stress response systems are dysregulated," Girdler says. "Measures of norepinephrine were abnormally elevated in PMDD women, while their cortisol levels were abnormally low. And we saw this regardless what day of the cycle we looked at. This abnormal elevation [in norepinephrine]was found all month long."

As Girdler points out, norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter, is a brain chemical that plays a very important role in regulating mood. "And it has been strongly implicated in depression. So we think that abnormal norepinephrine levels may play a role in premenstrual dysphoria -- depression -- that many of these women experience."

As the UNC-CH team adds more women to the study, differences between the groups persist as stated in the journal report. So far, results confirm other studies that show about 40 percent of women with PMDD have histories of major depressive episodes. "This is separate from PMDD. This is full-blown, long-lasting major depressive episodes," Girdler explains.

To date, Girdler and her colleagues have studied and compared more than 20 PMDD women and their healthy counterparts. They want to enroll more. "These women are often frustrated by their contacts with the medical community. They are very happy to help in any way they can to help validate what they feel is a real physiological disorder," Girdler says. "These women feel very misunderstood. Their disease is very hard to live with, and yet few people understand how disruptive and devastating it can be."

Women interested in volunteering as subjects for the UNC-CH study may contact Sara Benjamin, project coordinator, at 919-966-8029.

Girdler's psychiatry collaborators in the study are senior author Dr. Kathleen C. Light, Dr. Cort A. Pedersen, Dr. Jane Leserman, and Sara Benjamin. Patricia Straneva is from psychology. Catherine L. Stanwyck is from the UNC-CH School of Public Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Severe PMS Linked With Physical, Sexual Abuse In Childhood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981113082005.htm>.
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. (1998, November 13). Severe PMS Linked With Physical, Sexual Abuse In Childhood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981113082005.htm
University Of North Carolina At Chapel Hill. "Severe PMS Linked With Physical, Sexual Abuse In Childhood." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/11/981113082005.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins