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The medical model of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), responsibly explained--but suspect nonetheless (as the medical model is) for its willingness to attribute a huge spectrum of problems to a single cause. Norris is the founder of a two-year-old Massachusetts clinic devoted to treating sufferers of PMS. He describes the syndrome as ""a defect of physiology, not of character""; but he feels that ""its effects are so far-reaching that it may become difficult to separate the syndrome from the personality."" Allegedly, up to 85 percent of menstruating women ""have experienced symptoms of PMS""; and since the symptoms are said to include irritability, tension, headache, depression, fatigue, breast swelling and tenderness, abdominal bleeding, weight gain, increased thirst or appetite, cravings for sweet or salty foods, acne, asthma, and constipation (among others), this is probably a fair estimate. Readers may have more difficulty agreeing that PMS is linked to child abuse, alcohol abuse, assaults, panic attacks, psychotic episodes, and suicide attempts. (Regarding the controversial use of PMS as a legal defense, women should be held accountable for their acts, but judges should take ""extraordinary circumstances"" like PMS into account when passing sentence.) The authors describe the syndrome, discuss its effects on families and on employment, look at how it interacts with other ""Female Complaints"" (the Pill, pregnancy, sterilization) and how it changes with age; then, they give the ""PMS prescription""--diet, vitamin, exercise, stress reduction, and medication regimens that have eased the problems of Morris' patients. In illustration, reams of case studies are provided, some of them fictional (the heroine of Lawrence Sanders' Third Deadly Sin, for one), others too far in the past to serve as hard evidence (Lizzie Borden). Overall, the US seems to be a nation of women in serious distress; a more balanced and practical guide is Penny Budoff's No More Menstrual Cramps, and Other Good News (1980).

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Rawson/Scribners