Are women in midlife truly . . . ?
March 29, 2009 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Are women in midlife truly more prone to problematic imbalances than their male counterparts/sometime partners?

My husband is convinced that I am insane for a full week before my oncoming period begins. I am not convinced of this. Until I weaned our fourth child at the advanced age of 39 I had never experienced cramps, let alone "PMS."

My husband swears he needs no calendar to chart the passing of time, only my moods. I thinks he is wrong. If anything, I think there is a pretty strong argument to be made for male (fathers?) displaying some kinda interesting behavioral patterns, but that's just me.

In sum, do you think us womensk are really crazier than the guys?
posted by emhutchinson to Human Relations (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My child was not 39 when I weaned him; I was.
posted by emhutchinson at 3:37 PM on March 29, 2009 [11 favorites]


I just want to note that if your periods are regular, then he will inevitably know when to expect them whether or not he consciously checks a calendar (e.g. first week of each month). This sets up an easy case for confirmation bias. He knows it's that time (without realizing that he knows), and suddenly notices those behaviors in you that he thinks are correlated with PMS. At other times of the month he would dismiss that behavior, but during the significant week or so it's "proof" that he is right.

Some women find that their menstrual cycle impacts their moods. Others do not. It is impossible to say which of those groups you fall into. Perhaps you can ask someone who has occasion to observe your behavior, rather than strangers on the internet?
posted by prefpara at 3:52 PM on March 29, 2009


Why not track when you feel the strongest emotions on a calendar? This will not only confirm or disprove the theory, but give you something else to do when you're in a rage other than hefting anvils at him.
posted by fish tick at 4:04 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


The internet is kind of like a train, no?
posted by emhutchinson at 4:26 PM on March 29, 2009


I agree with prefpara this is specific to the person, since everyone experiences hormonal fluctuations differently. I have long suspected that men also go through a monthly hormonal cycle of sorts, and I believe that it would manifests differently in each gentleman. If this is a real concern for you, I would suggest you both keep a journal evaluating both your own & your partner's moods for a couple of months and then compare them. You might also want to ask your close friends if they notice you experiencing some sort of monthly moodiness. Ultimately, I really don't think "craziness" is specific to gender, and has more to do with the individual involved.
posted by katemcd at 4:40 PM on March 29, 2009


My husband swears he needs no calendar to chart the passing of time, only my moods. I thinks he is wrong. If anything, I think there is a pretty strong argument to be made for male (fathers?) displaying some kinda interesting behavioral patterns, but that's just me.

There's no reason why both can't be true.

Speaking as a male, I have noticed that some women do display mood changes before their period. Not all and the mood changes vary from amorous to being more irritable, in my limited experience. I had two ex-girlfriends who recognized that their mood changed before their period, that's how they knew it was coming.

So now, what he says doesn't sound crazy in general, but the internet has no idea if it's true about you.

In sum, do you think us womensk are really crazier than the guys?

That's such a loaded and broad question. It assumes that all men and women are alike, that the sexes behave alike across cultures and ages, well ignoring ample evidence that people can be vastly different.

Only a crazy person would ask it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:45 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a male, and I can reliably predict it in some women. Don't know why.

No, men and women are equally crazy.
posted by gjc at 5:09 PM on March 29, 2009


Women are more crazy. But crazy in a better way.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:38 PM on March 29, 2009


I think both men and women have changes in their behavior/moods due to varying levels of circulating hormones.

There has been some research done on omega-3 fatty acids (mostly krill oil, I think one of the manufacturers sponsored the original research at McGill University) showing women with dysmenorrhea have reduced symptoms of "pms". My sisters and a few friends girlfriends report positive effects.
posted by zentrification at 5:57 PM on March 29, 2009


i just read this question to ms. lester. she said 'yes.'
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:05 PM on March 29, 2009


Well, for what it's worth, my obgyn did tell me that PMS symptoms do worsen with age. My personal experience with this makes me agree. I did some googling around and found some articles to corroborate this (I'd link but my computer is trying to crash on me, so you might want to try for yourself).
posted by smalls at 6:44 PM on March 29, 2009


IMNYH (I am not your husband) but IAAH, and I can attest that at least one woman is more likely to have a serious day of anger and/or tears shortly before she gets her period. I don't think that makes her crazy, though.

As an aside, the fact that women are touchy about the very existence of PMS just seems strange to me. Isn't it basic biology that hormones vary over the course of the menstrual cycle, and that variations in hormone levels can effect many aspects of physical and emotional health?
posted by alms at 7:13 PM on March 29, 2009


As a 40-something-year-old woman, I seem to be experiencing slightly worse bouts of PMS in recent years. I am referring to both the physical discomfort and the mental/emotional pinging. I know that if I get royally pissed off for no reason, more than likely it's the week before my period.

I may try the krill oil, to see if it helps.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:24 PM on March 29, 2009


As an aside, the fact that women are touchy about the very existence of PMS just seems strange to me. Isn't it basic biology that hormones vary over the course of the menstrual cycle, and that variations in hormone levels can effect many aspects of physical and emotional health?

This touchiness might seem less strange when you consider that PMS and variations in hormone levels have been used societally as justification for taking women less seriously, or excluding them from certain positions of responsibility/authority.

In answer to the OP's question, I think both men and women are affected by hormonal fluctuations, though of course menstruating women have more easily identifiable and (usually) regularish cycles. I don't discount the idea of PMS altogether, but I think all women are different and some women are affected by it more than others. I do not know if you are or are not affected by it, but it's entirely possible that your husband is experiencing confirmation bias, as prefpara noted.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:30 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


I saw a recent documentary that proposed that some of the global crisis is due to testosterone, and increased testosterone levels due to successful risk taking, and the kind of environment stockbrokers work in. This indicates that perhaps men are also hormonal crazy.

I know that I get noticable mood swings in the week before my period, but luckily, those mood swings include a sense of absolute superiority, so I know at the time that whatever I happen to think is right. It's only afterward, when I'm normal again, that I recognise I might not behave or think during that week the same way I might the rest of the month.

Oh, I'm 41 and 1/2, weaned my last child 15 years ago, and have always had these mood swings, but some years have been worse than others. I think during my 30s I was most stable.
posted by b33j at 12:28 AM on March 30, 2009


Oh and by the way, my husband has mood swings, usually in line with the level of pain or discomfort he is in, which is common. The more pain, the moodier - the big wuss.
posted by b33j at 12:30 AM on March 30, 2009


personally, I've been getting more laid back as I get older - everyone's different.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:35 AM on March 30, 2009


My husband swears he needs no calendar to chart the passing of time, only my moods. I thinks he is wrong.

In fairness, given that one of the two parties is the one who is statistically likely to have the biggest mood changes due to a greater variation in hormone balance per month... you might want to be less quick to decide your husband is wrong.

Every woman I've ever dated and the one I'm married to, had distinct behavioral changes before their periods. Sometimes it was bad. I had an ex-girlfriend who turned into an absolute monster. Sometimes it was laughably benign. My wife gets very clingy/snuggly but not at all aggressive. Either way I've never been without someone who, in their own way, telegraphed the event very clearly.

As far as your question about age: my wife is younger but both she and I noticed that her periods (not really her moods, but the actual physical side of her periods) got significantly more unpleasant after childbirth.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 5:58 AM on March 30, 2009


There's a few different things here. One is the question of whether women are crazier than guys, and that's essentially an unanswerable question. You'd need to start with a workable definition of crazy, and personally mine wouldn't really include pre-menstrual mood swings.

Then if you change it to ask, well, do women have worse mood swings than men? I think the answer is...not necessarily. But it's hard to accurately compare, because women's can correspond with their menstrual cycle, while men's can't, because they don't have a menstrual cycle. It's also hard just because of the sheer variety of people's experiences, with both hormonal and non-hormonal mood swings. Sometimes your mood changes for other reasons. Or for combinations of reasons. And it's hard to quantify your mood, let alone someone else's.

To me the most interesting thing is that your husband claims to be noticing mood swings corresponding to your cycle that you yourself are not noticing. We don't always recognize our own mood changes right away, but one gets to a point where you say to yourself, "why am I so grumpy?" or "why is this toilet paper commercial making me cry?" or what have you, and you sort of do a quick internal scan--have I been eating weird? Sleeping weird? New medication? Period coming up? etc.

And so in a case like this--where one person is sure he's noticed a pattern, and the other has so NOT noticed it to be sure the first one is wrong--it's hard to say. Maybe he is actually noticing something you've never noticed in your lifetime as a woman. Maybe he's internalized some cultural ideas about how women are supposed to act before their period, and falsely attributed small, coincidental mood changes to your cycle. OR maybe your mood changes based in part by your cycle, in part by outside factors, and he's overestimating the cycle part and you're underestimating it.
posted by lampoil at 11:23 AM on March 30, 2009


This is an interesting question.

Given that women deal with cycling hormonal levels, then yeah, if your mood is strongly affected by your hormones you'll be seen as "crazy" if crazy is defined as changing moods.

However, testosterone is linked to risk-taking and aggressiveness, so if you define "crazy" as "more prone to physical violence and irrational acts" then the partner with the higher testosterone level might be seen as crazy.

I think the important thing that defines craziness/not-craziness when it comes to hormones is how well you are able to notice whether your mood changes are for rational or inexplicable reasons, and how you deal with them. A person who allows themselves to be controlled entirely by their emotions and whims is going to be a lot crazier than someone who's like "Hmm, this crying jag makes no sense, let me work through it."

For what it's worth, I never had mood swings around my period--but my ex-boyfriend did. In the week before it started he would have palpable downswings.
posted by schroedinger at 2:26 PM on March 30, 2009


Women do experience perimenopause.
posted by medusa at 9:32 PM on March 30, 2009


« Older What would your dog recommend?   |   setting up a bank account for a small business Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.