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 to help your teen.

Does your teen ever get their period and think “well, that explains a lot.” Suddenly, it makes sense why they screamed at a friend for giving them a “weird look,” and they finally understand why they bawled their eyes out when their dog did something cute. It’s not all in their head (or yours) – 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 that teens may experience. There's a running joke that PMS makes women irritable and moody, and many people dismiss teens' feelings because they're "PMSing." You might want to laugh off their PMS, but the mood swings they experience before their period are no joke and could be a more serious condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

What are PMDD symptoms?

Approximately 85% of teens who menstruate experience symptoms of PMS such as irritability, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Normally, these are symptoms that appear but do not affect their everyday lives in a significant way. But for some teens, 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 teens' daily lives and relationships. Generally speaking, a dysphoric mood is characterized by unhappiness, restlessness, and frustration. PMDD only occurs after ovulation (2 weeks before their period) and eases up within the first day or two of their menstrual cycle.

If you think your teen has PMDD – what next?

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 their symptoms in a diary. They can track two cycles and note if their period mood swings are beginning to affect their day-to-day life. They should take this information to their family physician, and if they're diagnosed with PMDD, they should speak with their doctor about next steps. PMDD can be improved with natural treatments like exercise or meditation, but in some cases, the doctor may prescribe birth control or even antidepressants as part of the PMDD treatment.

When it comes to PMS, there's not a ton teens can do to stop it, but they can be aware of it. For instance, they may know they tend to get upset easily in the week leading up to their period, so they can try to surround themselves with things that make them happy and steer clear of anything that could potentially bring them down.

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

The best thing teens can do is pay attention to their mind and body and how they react to their period or everyday situations. They know themselves best! They can also avoid period leaks on top of everything else with our fab period-proof panties.

The best thing they can do is pay attention to their mind and body and how it reacts to their period, or everyday situations. They know their bodies best! Avoid period leaks on top of everything else with our fab period proof panties.

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