Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) are two conditions that make many women's lives more difficult each month until their period. And while many types of PMS are common to many women, the symptoms can sometimes be so severe that they interfere with your quality of life. If you can relate to the latter, understanding what qualifies as PMDD can be helpful in understanding your symptoms and finding relief.
Continue reading to find out more about the difference between PMS and PMDD, and what you can do to relieve the symptoms.
What is PMS?
"Premenstrual syndrome, often called PMS, describes patterns of physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms that occur one to two weeks before and recurred at the onset of menstruation," Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OB / GYN, to CNET. "PMS is common and affects 30-80% of women of reproductive age," Shepherd said.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can contain a variety of signs and symptoms, including mood swings, sore breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. It is estimated that as many as 3 out of 4 menstrual women have experienced some form of PMS.
The cause of PMS is usually attributed to hormonal imbalances or changes in hormones that occur in the body up to a period of time. Changes also occur chemically in the brain, which may be the culprit behind many of the mood-related symptoms.
PMS can also involve many physical symptoms including muscle pain, bloating, acne and digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea.  What is PMDD?
"Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome and is characterized by significant premenstrual mood disorder, often with more prominent mood reactivity and irritability," Dr. Shepherd. "Mood disorders result in marked social decline."
So if your symptoms leading up to your period tend to sidestep you for several days, causing you to miss work, school or prevent you from doing the things you normally want to do, your symptoms may require more advanced treatment.
Further, according to the Mayo Clinic, at least one of several distinct symptoms must be present to classify as PMDD. "However, at least one of these emotional and behavioral symptoms differs in PMDD: sadness or hopelessness, anxiety or tension, extreme mood, marked irritability or anger."
The relationship between PMDD and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
Since mood and behavioral symptoms are part of why PMDD is so troubling, it makes sense that there is a link to mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is common for someone who already has depression or anxiety to also experience PMDD. In fact, the hormonal changes that occur naturally in the body before a period can aggravate symptoms of mood disorders, which is important to consider if you have a diagnosed condition such as anxiety or depression.
It is important to note that for a PMDD diagnosis, mood and behavioral symptoms should only happen about two weeks until your period. Dr. Andrea Chisholm emphasizes in an article for Harvard Medical School the importance of noting the timing of the onset of your symptoms and when deciding that your doctor should make a diagnosis. If your symptoms occur for an extended period of time, or throughout the month, you may still have PMS or PMDD, but you may also need to be checked for a mood disorder such as anxiety or depression.
What can you do to manage PMS or PMDD?
One step you can take to help manage your symptoms is to start tracking your bike with an app or smart watch. "Tracking cycles can help by knowing when moods can change and help find ways to change these mood changes," Dr. Shepherd. Various period tracking apps like My Flo and Clue allow you to track not only the days of your cycle, but also important symptoms and mood changes.
In addition to keeping track of your symptoms, you can also use diet, lifestyle and exercise to help manage symptoms. Some dietary changes that can help you eat smaller, more frequent meals, limit your salty foods and try to integrate more complex carbohydrates (like fruits and vegetables over processed carbohydrates such as bread or pasta). You can also eat more calcium-rich foods because calcium is found to help improve PMS symptoms. Limiting alcohol and caffeine can also help.
Regular exercise can also be helpful for general health and for preventing and managing symptoms such as fatigue and depression. Other than exercise and diet, you can also work on managing stress and getting more sleep to manage your symptoms.
If lifestyle interventions do not help, doctors may use different treatments or medications to help. Some drugs commonly used to treat PMS and PMDD include antidepressants, NSAIDs, diuretics and hormonal contraceptives. "There is a strong theory that fluctuations in circulating estrogen and progesterone cause significant effects on central neurotransmission, especially serotonergic, norepinergic and dopaminergic pathways. This is important as there are some medications that can help regulate these pathways and possibly minimize mood changes. " Dr. Shepherd like that.
When are you going to see a doctor?
"If a person thinks they have PMS or PMDD, it is important to talk to a clinician so that other diagnoses can be ruled out," advised Dr. Shepherd. Again, if you suspect you may have PMDD, experience PMS or have mood symptoms that occur around your period (or at any time of the month), it is best to see a doctor so you can get the correct diagnosis and treatment.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare provider if you have any questions about a medical condition or health objective.