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PMS & PMDD Anger

PMS & PMDD Anger: Women Get Mad Too

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Dr. Daniel J. Heller Dr. Daniel J. Heller

Dr. Heller is a family practitioner who specializes in helping patients with hormonal conditions like PMS & PMDD; diabetes and prediabetes; and other chronic diseases. He is the founder, formulator, and clinical director of PMS Comfort. [more]


Anger is one of the most difficult emotions for women: it's often considered unladylike or inappropriate for women to express or even feel anger. Many women have internalized this cultural judgment to some degree, and so the feeling of being angry can be disturbing and threatening. For this reason, women tend to find indirect ways of dealing with anger, or even just bottle it up altogether, and suppressing anger can contribute to depression and anxiety. Unhealthy ways of dealing with anger lead to continued feelings of powerlessness, which only create more anger, and also contribute to a lack of self-confidence.

Feeling and expressing anger can feel scary and out of control. Anger issues, anger management, and learning how to control anger are common concerns for both men and women. But PMS anger creates special problems, because your usual coping strategies may be overwhelmed by the hormonal and mood chemistry imbalances that often accompany the menstrual cycle.

It's important to remember that if you experience difficulty controlling your anger before your period, you aren't alone: millions of women struggle with this concern. PMS and PMDD anger and angry outbursts are extremely common, and one of the main reasons women with PMS and PMDD seek help for their symptoms. Unpredictable and inappropriate angry episodes—or even just the chronic, repetitive nature of these "attacks"—can impact relationships on all levels of your life: friends, family, children, spouses, partners, co-workers, and customers.

Why is Anger Considered not Feminine?

For the most part our culture frowns on women expressing or feeling anger. Our idealized image of women both young and old is that of a mild and sweet nature with almost limitless patience and self-restraint. Experts agree that girls are usually taught that being feminine and ladylike means not asserting oneself, and certainly not acting aggressive or angry. Most girls are raised to believe that tears, withdrawal, and letting others take command of a situation is a more appropriate response to a feeling of threat or violation than is aggression and standing one's ground. Conversely, aggression and anger are expected and even cultivated in men, with cultural outlets like sports, the military, and even the business world encouraging men to exhibit such feelings and behavior. Anger in men is sometimes even viewed as a sign of virility and strength, whereas women are often expected to be seen but not heard, and to keep their opinions to themselves, including not getting angry, and not showing anger.

Of course, it doesn't make sense to expect that women shouldn't experience a whole segment of normal human emotion. It's normal to feel anger when you feel offended or violated or disrespected. Of course, it's also healthy to be able to express an emotion like anger moderately and appropriately, and to be able to keep anger from completely taking over. But when a reasonable emotion gets bottled up over and over, it is unhealthy, so our cultural attitudes about women's emotions actually have the potential to cause real harm to women's lives and women's health. This makes it so important to find that delicate balance between allowing yourself to feel anger as a natural and normal human emotion, and learning how to control and manage anger for the sake of your health, relationships, and work.

The Dark Side of Anger

PMS anger can be a real hardship for women and the people in their lives. But we feel it's important to stop for a moment to acknowledge another way anger has affected the lives of so many women: as the victims of abuse, in which the perpetrator's out of control anger was a cause, or perhaps used as an excuse, for the violation. Many women have, at some point in their life, been subject to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or violence from parents, children, siblings, spouses, partners, or even coworkers. This kind of trauma can leave lasting scars that persist as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that actually increases the chances of having PMS and PMDD. Living as a victim of anger, and the feeling of powerlessness that goes with it, may eventually give rise to PMS anger, though it may just as easily result in PMS depression, anxiety, or even physical premenstrual symptoms. Feelings of powerlessness often give rise to anger, but people who tend to vent anger usually choose people less powerful than themselves as the recipients of their out of control emotions. This suggests that there probably is some degree of self-control available to manage anger, because otherwise, a "rage-oholic" boss who emotionally abuses an employee would be just as likely to dish out the same kind of treatment his own boss, or to an important customer.

If you've been on the receiving end of anger that felt abusive, having that out of control PMS angry feeling yourself can bring up some very scary feelings. It is peculiar that either feeling or receiving anger or angry behavior elicits similar emotions of powerlessness and feeling out of control and overwhelmed. It doesn't appear to matter that the roles are completely reversed: to your brain, both situations feel similar, upsetting, and stressful.

Of course, PMS anger only rarely reaches such a violent and abusive level. For most women, anger is more often like a passing storm, and an uncharacteristic departure from a more balanced emotional life. One of the amazing things about PMS is that women who are ordinarily mild-mannered, even-tempered, and patient will often feel they don't recognize the woman in the mirror who, for those few days or weeks each month has a hair-trigger temper, yells at the kids for the same things she chuckled about a week before, and who can be mean and even vicious in pointing out a loved one's flaws and foibles.

The Hidden Cost of Anger

Anger affects the angry person every bit as much as it does the people who absorb its effects. Chronic or recurrent PMS anger has a real and detrimental effect on your health. And this is true whether you suppress the anger or let it out.

Anger raises blood pressure, switches our nervous system into a state of stress and alarm, and causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. When anger is appropriate, this state of alarm serves a purpose—for instance, if you had to protect yourself or a loved one from harm. In such a case, though, that angry feeling would pass when the threat passed. Typically, though, chronic or recurrent PMS and PMDD anger have negative physical effects and, as they ripple through your emotional life, they have other "rebound" health effects. You might feel badly afterwards, and eat a pint of ice cream or a bunch of cookies to try to feel better; the guilt that follows an angry outburst can make you tense and stressed for hours or even days; and then there is the long, drawn-out argument in your brain about who was right, who was wrong, why it happened, and so forth—all of which detracting from being present and available to whatever is going on now.

Whether you are a woman concerned about PMS or PMDD anger, or chronic anger, or you're concerned about a loved one who appears to have problems controlling and managing anger, it's important to recognize that in the vast majority of cases, the anger and the outbursts aren't intentional, and most people with anger issues really do want to learn how to control and manage anger. Meeting anger with compassion—especially your own anger—is often the first, and most important, step.

Real, Natural Relief—So You Can Feel Great All Month Long

PMS and PMDD misery aren't always taken seriously enough by doctors, family, and friends. At PMS Comfort, our whole purpose is to empower and educate you about premenstrual symptoms, and to provide real, natural relief so that you can feel great all month long. Our all-natural doctor-designed programs are based on decades of experience helping thousands of women recover from what you've been going through. Our Herbal Relief formula, when combined with our diet and lifestyle guidance, addresses more than just your symptoms—it can help bring your body and mind back into balance, and help you get and stay healthy. Plus, we're here to support you, every step of the way.

To learn more about your PMS and PMDD symptoms, take the PMS Comfort quiz. Or, start feeling better today, for as little as 89 cents per day.

We want to help. Give us a call at 1-800-731-6327, drop us an e-mail, or send us your question.

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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: April 3, 2014

PMS & PMDD Anger—Reference Documents and Further Reading


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