PMS vs. PMDD: How Are They Different?

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PMS vs. PMDD: How Are They Different?

PMS and PMDD are two conditions that affect women's mental and physical health in the days before menstruation. Despite some similarities in symptoms, there are various conditions with distinct diagnostic criteria and treatment approaches. In this blog, we'll look at the differences between PMS and PMDD, as well as the symptoms and treatments available.

What is PMS?    

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a disorder that affects women in the days or weeks preceding their menstrual cycle. PMS symptoms vary by woman, but they commonly include mood swings, irritability, fatigue, bloating, and breast tenderness. Headaches, backaches, and digestive problems are also common in women.

PMS is a common condition affecting 3 of every 4 (estimated) menstruating women. These symptoms are typically mild and do not disrupt daily activities. However, PMS can be severe for some women and affect their quality of lifestyle.

What is PMDD?    

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of PMS that affects up to 8% of women. The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS but are more intense and can significantly impact a woman's daily life.

PMDD is a severe condition that can interfere with a woman's ability to function at work, school, or home. It's essential to seek treatment if you are experiencing PMDD.

What are the Key differences between PMS and PMDD?    

The main difference between PMS and PMDD is the symptoms' severity and impact on daily life. While PMS can cause discomfort and mild mood changes, PMDD can significantly affect a woman's ability to function in everyday life, work, or relationships. Additionally, the diagnostic criteria for PMDD are more specific than those for PMS. PMDD requires at least five symptoms to be present, while PMS does not have an exact number of symptoms.

Common Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms include:    

Emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms    

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Change in libido

Physical signs and symptoms    

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache & fatigue
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

Also read:  Addressing the Gender Gap in Mental Health

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Symptoms:    

While a person going through PMD shows the above symptoms in a severe state, here are some common Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder symptoms.:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
  • Severe stress, tension, or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Inappropriate mood swings and bouts of crying
  • Constant irritability or anger that affects other people
  • Loss of interest in normal daily activities and relationships

What Causes PMS?    

The exact causes of PMS are still unknown; however, the factors which can majorly contribute towards development:
Cyclic changes in hormones. Premenstrual syndrome symptoms change with hormonal fluctuations and disappear during pregnancy and menopause.
Chemical changes in the brain. Serotonin fluctuations, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) thought to play an essential role in mood states, could trigger PMS symptoms. Serotonin deficiency may contribute to premenstrual depression, fatigue, food cravings, and sleep issues.

What Causes PMDD?    

PMDD has no known cause, but it is thought to be an abnormal response to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. PMDD and low serotonin levels are also often linked together, and changes in estrogen and progesterone levels in the two weeks preceding menstruation are thought to affect serotonin levels. Serotonin-mediated brain cells regulate mood, attention, sleep, and pain. As a result, long-term changes in serotonin levels can cause PMDD symptoms.

How Do I Treat PMS?    

There are ways through which PMS can be managed. Women can benefit from supplements or OTC (over-the-counter) therapies, while some may require prescription medications. Specific changes in lifestyle approaches can also prove to be beneficial.
Whether you require treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms and their effect on your life. You can discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider, who can recommend the best treatment.

How Do I Treat PMDD?    

Your medical professional will decide the best course of treatment for your PMDD symptoms. Many women with PMDD take an antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) consistently throughout the month or an increased dose for two weeks before their periods.
PMDD is also treatable with hormones. Many women find that stopping ovulation with medication can eliminate the hormone fluctuations that cause symptoms. Your doctor may also advise you to use progesterone or estrogen-containing medications or creams.

When Should I See a Doctor?    

In severe cases of PMDD, a healthcare provider may recommend a GnRH agonist, which temporarily stops ovulation and reduces the production of estrogen and progesterone.


In conclusion, PMS and PMDD are two conditions that can impact women's mental and physical health before menstruation. While they share some symptoms, PMDD is a more severe form of PMS that must be diagnosed using specific criteria. Both conditions can be treated with lifestyle changes, medications, or a combination. If you have PMS or PMDD symptoms, speak with your healthcare provider, who can help you decide on the best action.

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