Perceived Stress, Physiologic Stress Arousal, and Premenstrual Symptoms: Group Differences and Intra-Individual Patterns

Nancy Fugate Woods, Martha Jane Lentz, Ellen Sullivan Mitchell, Margaret Heitkemper, Joan Shaver, Richard Henker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine evidence for perceived stress, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, and autonomic nervous system involvement in premenstrual symptoms. Women with a low severity (LS, n = 40), premenstrual syndrome (PMS, n = 22), and premenstrual magnification symptom patterns (PMM, n = 26) rated perceived stress, turmoil, and fluid retention symptoms for one entire cycle. Daily late afternoon urine samples were assayed for epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. Using multivariate analysis of variance analyses, we found significant group and cycle phase and group by phase interaction effects for perceived stress. There were no group or cycle phase differences in cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Intraindividual analyses using cross-correlation techniques revealed a positive time lagged relationship between perceived stress and norepinephrine and cortisol levels across all groups. Only women with a PMS pattern demonstrated perceived stress leading epinephrine levels. Cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine levels led symptoms for all groups with one exception: there was no cross-correlation between epinephrine and turmoil for the PMS group. Perceived stress led both types of symptoms, regardless of group, and symptoms also led stress. The results provide evidence for a unique relationship between epinephrine, perceived stress, and symptoms for women with PMS, and for a reciprocal relationship between stress and symptoms for each of the groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-523
Number of pages13
JournalResearch in Nursing and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Catecholamines
  • Cortisol
  • PMS
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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