Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 337–356 | Cite as

Premenstrual syndrome as a Western culture-specific disorder

  • Thomas M. Johnson


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has a phenomenology resembling many culture-bound (culture-specific) syndromes described in the anthropological literature. Viewed as a culture-specific syndrome, PMS is an appropriate symbolic representation of conflicting societal expectations that women be both productive and reproductive. By simultaneously denying either alternative, PMS translates role conflict into a standardized cultural idiom. Thus, despite obvious biopsychological determinants, PMS is best understood as a sociocultural phenomenon illustrating both the special status of women in Western culture and the ethnocentrism of Western anthropology which heretofore has only recently begun to identify culture-specific syndromes in its own back yard.


Western Culture Symbolic Representation Role Conflict Premenstrual Syndrome Societal Expectation 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas M. Johnson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasU.S.A.
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Texas Health Science CenterDallas

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