What's the Difference Between PMS and PMDD?

Mood Swings. Irritability. Anxiety. Depression. We break down what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to PMS and PMDD.

What’s PMS?

Even if you don’t know what it is, you’ve probably felt it. The mood swings. The irritability. The feeling like you might burst out in tears at any given moment. PMS is short for Premenstrual syndrome, and the symptoms usually start to occur a week or two before your period. What’s fascinating is that no one really knows why it happens. Researchers believe that PMS is a result of dramatically declining estrogen and progesterone levels in the body once it realizes that it’s not pregnant, but ultimately the cause is unknown. One thing is for certain though: 90% of people who have periods experience at least one symptom, whether that be a physical one, like headaches, or an emotional one, like irritability. 

What’s PMDD?

For most of us, PMS doesn’t really interfere with our daily lives. Sure, we might feel a little bit more sensitive than usual and have to keep a bottle of pain meds close by, but for the most part, we can still go to school or work or participate in our extracurriculars.

For some people, however, PMS symptoms can be super aggressive and really take a hold on their lives. At least 3-5% of people with periods experience something called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, which mimics the symptoms of major depression.

People suffering from PMDD might feel extreme sadness or despair, uncontrollable anger, panic attacks or even experience suicidal thoughts in the weeks before their period.

Think of it as a more severe version of PMS. There’s even less known about PMDD than PMS, but if you suspect you might have PMDD then you may want to check in with a medical professional. Click here to read a firsthand account of what it's like to suffer from PMDD.

How do I know if I have PMDD?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, PMDD is diagnosed when at least five of the following symptoms occur seven to 10 days before your period starts, and go away within a few days after you start it. 

  1. Anger or irritability.
  2. Anxiety and panic attacks.
  3. Depression and suicidal thoughts.
  4. Difficulty concentrating.
  5. Fatigue and low energy.
  6. Food cravings or binge eating.
  7. Headaches.
  8. Insomnia.
  9. Mood swings.

 How do you know if what you’re feeling is PMS, PMDD or something else, like depression or anxiety? Keep a diary and assess the severity of symptoms. This may vary month to month, but there’s most likely a trend that corresponds to your cycle if it’s PMS or PMDD. At the end of the day though, a doctor will be able to provide you with a proper diagnosis. Make sure you're prepared for your next period with Kt by Knix period kits.

Further reading: Does caffeine help period cramps?

While we at Knixteen love talking about periods, we are not doctors. Please talk to a medical professional for an actual diagnosis, or if you have questions or concerns about your period. If you’re struggling with an issue and need someone to talk to, please reach out to a friend or adult, or contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

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