What Differentiates PMDD From PMS? A Quick Guide to Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder (PMDD) is closely related to PMS, but there are some key differences. Here we cover the symptoms, the feelings, and what you can do about it.

Do you ever get your period and think “well, that explains a lot.” Suddenly, it makes sense why you screamed at your friend for giving you a “weird look,” and you finally understand why you bawled your eyes out when your dog did something cute. It’s not all in your head – it’s premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

There are tons of physical PMS symptoms, like bloating and breast tenderness, but there are also just as many mental PMS symptoms. There’s a running joke that PMS makes women irritable and moody, and many people dismiss women’s feelings because they’re “PMSing.” You might want to laugh off your PMS, but the mood swings you experience before your period are no joke and could be a more serious condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

What are PMDD symptoms?

Approximately 85% of people who menstruate experience symptoms of PMS such as irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Normally, these are symptoms that appear but do not affect our everyday lives in a significant way. But for some, severe PMS symptoms can be debilitating and could require a different diagnosis. PMDD is closely related to PMS, but there are some key differences. What is PMDD? Think of it as extreme PMS, or PMS on steroids.

When looking at PMDD vs PMS, the physical symptoms are very similar, but the emotional symptoms associated with PMDD stand out. PMDD symptoms are characterized by depression, irritability, anxiety, and moodiness that can be so severe, they disrupt your daily life and relationships. Generally speaking, a dysphoric mood is characterized by unhappiness, restlessness, and frustration. PMDD only occurs after ovulation (2 weeks before your period) and eases up within the first day or two of your menstrual cycle.

I think I have PMDD – now what?

It can be hard to diagnose Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, as there’s no definitive PMDD test. The best advice we can give is to track your symptoms in a diary. Track two cycles and note if your period mood swings are beginning to affect your day-to-day. Take this to your family physician and if you’re diagnosed with PMDD, speak with your doctor about next steps. PMDD can be improved with natural treatment like exercise or meditation, but in some cases, your doctor may prescribe birth control or even antidepressants as part of your PMDD treatment.

When it comes to PMS, there’s not a ton you can do to stop it, but you can be aware of it. For instance, I know I tend to get upset easily in the week leading up to my period, so I try to surround myself with things that make me happy and steer clear of anything that could potentially get me down.

If something makes you angry or upset, try reaching out to a loved one to vent. Studies have shown venting helps release stress, so let it all out! Overall, try to remember the moodiness is only temporary. If you find you’re experiencing feelings of anxiety or depression daily as opposed to right before your period, consult your family, friends and a physician.

The best thing you can do is pay attention to your mind and body and how it reacts to your period, or everyday situations. You know yourself best! Avoid period leaks on top of everything else with our fab leak proof underwear.

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