Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Things Men Should Know About Female Hormones

PMS Can be Something More Serious
Unexplainable tears are a common part of PMS.
Unexplainable tears are a common part of PMS.

Some people, including medical professionals, have dismissed premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as legitimate disorder. They say it's a convenient excuse for women to act cranky while eating junk food and lying around. However, many in the medical community recognize PMS as legitimate; it's experienced by three out of every four women. Nobody knows exactly what causes PMS, other than the fluctuations of hormones and chemical changes in the brain.

There can be a wide range of symptoms, in addition to food cravings and mood swings; some women also experience insomnia, headaches and intestinal distress. Most of the time, these symptoms go away once their period actually begins. Exercising, eating healthy foods and taking medications for the pain can help. Some women, however, experience an extreme, even debilitating type of PMS known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

PMDD causes severe emotional symptoms such as high anxiety, anger and irritability beyond what is considered typical for PMS. Sometimes treatment is necessary and may include birth control pills or even antidepressants. It's important to note that some doctors believe that PMDD is a separate mental disorder.

Many women have little-to-no PMS symptoms at all. Recognizing what constitutes normal PMS symptoms in the woman in your life can help everyone manage a potentially difficult time.