PMS vs PMDD: How Are They Different?

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PMS vs PMDD: How Are They Different?

Many women experience a rollercoaster of emotions and physical discomfort in the days leading up to their period. This is often referred to as PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome). But for some, these pre-period symptoms become much more severe, significantly impacting daily life. This more debilitating condition is called PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).

What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?      

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is extremely common, affecting up to 75% of menstruating women. It involves a range of physical and emotional symptoms that typically appear in the luteal phase, the second half of the menstrual cycle, and disappear once the period starts. Symptoms can include bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and even PMS depression.

What is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?      

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of PMS, affecting around 3-8% of women. While the symptoms are similar to PMS, they are much more intense and disruptive to daily activities. What causes PMDD remains unknown, but some theories suggest an abnormal reaction to normal hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. This reaction might be linked to sensitivity changes in brain chemicals like serotonin, leading to a lot of emotional symptoms.

Key Difference Between PMS and PMDD:      

The main distinction lies in the severity and duration of symptoms:

  • Severity: PMS symptoms are mild to moderate and manageable. PMDD symptoms are severe and significantly impact work, relationships, and overall well-being.
  • Duration: PMS symptoms typically appear in the week or two before a period. PMDD symptoms can last for up to two weeks before the period and even continue into the first few days.
  • Impact on Daily Life: PMS is usually manageable. PMDD can significantly disrupt daily life.

PMS and PMDD Symptoms:      

Here's a breakdown of common symptoms for both conditions:

  • Physical: Bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, headaches, fatigue
  • Emotional: Mood swings, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating



How Do I Treat Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?      

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to PMS management, but some lifestyle changes can help:

  • Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve overall well-being and potentially lessen symptom severity.
  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can boost mood and reduce stress, both of which can be helpful in managing PMS symptoms.
  • Stress Management techniques: Techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can help manage stress hormones which can worsen PMS symptoms.

How Do I Treat Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)?      

PMDD often requires a more comprehensive approach to treatment. Here are some options to discuss with your doctor to find the best treatment for PMDD:

  • Birth Control: Hormonal birth control like the pill or IUD can help regulate hormone fluctuations and reduce the severity of PMDD symptoms.
  • Antidepressants: Certain antidepressants, particularly SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), can be effective in managing the mood-related symptoms of PMDD, and also in treating PMS depression.
  • Dietary Changes: Similar to PMS, a healthy diet can be beneficial. Some women find relief by limiting caffeine and salt intake in the luteal phase.


If you suspect you might have PMDD, talking to your doctor is crucial. They can assist you in distinguishing the difference between PMS and PMDD and develop a treatment plan to effectively manage your symptoms. Don't hesitate to seek help – you deserve to feel your best throughout your entire cycle.

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