Is There a Relationship Between Binge Eating and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

PMS symptoms

PMS is a common disorder that can have a physical and emotional impact. For some menstruating people, PMS can be so severe that it gets in the way of someone’s ability to function. We’ve all seen and heard the stereotypes of a woman binging before her menstrual period. What if binge eating was making PMS worse? That’s what researchers set out to figure out.

What is Binge Eating Disorder?

Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by reoccurring episodes of binge eating. BED doesn’t get as much attention as other eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, but BED is also serious and can negatively impact someone’s physical and mental health.

For someone to be diagnosed with BED, they must have the following symptoms:

  • Patterns of binge eating that happen at least three times a week. A binge is when someone eats an unusually large amount of food in a short amount of time. The amount of food is considered abnormal because most people wouldn’t eat the same amount of food within the same time frame
  • Feel out of control before or during a binge
  • Feeling guilty, disgusted, or depressed after a binge

What is PMS? 

PMS is a combination of emotional and physical symptoms that come from the changing hormones in a woman’s body. PMS happens during the second phase of the menstrual cycle and can last until menses starts or a few days after. There are several signs of PMS. The most common symptoms are:

  • Feeling angry
  • Breast tenderness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Belly bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Headache [1]

As mentioned earlier, depending on how severe these symptoms are, these symptoms can get in the way of someone’s ability to function in their relationships, school, or job [1]. Considering that PMS effects up to 90% of menstruating people, it’s important to understand the connection between PMS and BED.

How are PMS and Binge Eating Connected?

Recent research has looked into whether PMS and BED are connected. Turns out, they are [1]. A study done in 2021 found that females with BED were more likely to experience moderate to severe PMS symptoms [1].

Researchers suspect that this connection may be a reflection of people’s attempts to cope with PMS. This means that people might be using binge eating to cope with the discomfort that comes from PMS. For example, someone with PMS might use binging to cope with how angry they feel [1].

This research is important because there hasn’t been a lot of research done on the connection between PMS and BED. If eating disorder professionals are aware of the link between PMS and BED, it may be helpful for treatment providers to provide extra support during this phase of a client’s cycle.

PMS symptoms

Tips for Coping during PMS

PMS can make people feel out of control. If you notice that during this phase of your cycle, you start binging or you binge eat more often than normal, there are some things you can do to support yourself during this time. Here are three ideas:

  • Self-care. If someone binges as a way to cope with upsetting feelings, then finding ways to cope with your emotions could be helpful. For example, if you know that PMS makes you feel really sad and you cope with the sadness by binging, then find other coping skills that will help you manage the sadness.
  • Mindful Eating. It’s easier to binge if you’re mentally checked out. It can help to practice mindful eating. Pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Stay present and aware of what your body is telling you.
  • Reach out for help. It’s normal to need help when dealing with disordered eating. No one can recover alone. Find a treatment provider who can help you heal from binge eating. It may also be helpful to talk with your doctor about your PMS symptoms.

PMS is common and so is BED. There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you found yourself relating to this article. You’re not alone in your struggle and you don’t have to be alone in your recovery.


Resources:

[1] Badrasawi, M.M., Zidan, S.J., Natour, N., Sharif, I., Atrash, S., Abueid, G., & Al-Jounde, Saeda. (2021). Binge eating symptoms are associated with the severity of premenstrual symptoms among university students, cross sectional study from Palestine. Journal of Eating Disorders, 9(68). 1-9.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published August 31, 2021, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on August 31, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Samantha Bothwell, LMFT

Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.