Is this PMS or PMDD? Coping with Premenstrual Disorders

Apr 15, 2022

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Is this PMS or PMDD? Coping with Premenstrual Disorders

Sometimes being a woman seems unfair. Case in point: have you ever been accused of having PMS? PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. Most have heard the term and may have used it jokingly when a woman’s emotions were high, casually alluding to the fact that her moodiness must be from imbalanced hormones during her menstrual cycle.

While it may seem like fun and games to joke about PMS, it’s a real physiological phenomenon that should be taken seriously. Nine out of ten women experience premenstrual symptoms to different degrees. If you’ve noticed your own PMS affecting other people, it might be time to consider whether you’re dealing with a more serious premenstrual disorder: PMDD.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a severe version of PMS that affects your life more significantly. In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of premenstrual disorders and give you tips to help with your symptoms around that time of the month.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome includes a range of symptoms, both physical and emotional, that occur in a woman’s body due to changes in her body’s chemistry from the menstrual cycle. A few common symptoms can include:

  • Breast soreness and swelling
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sadness and depression

Interestingly, PMS is most likely to occur in women in their 30s. Other factors that increase your chances of pre-period problems include high stress and a history of depression.

So how do you know if it’s PMS? A tell-tale sign is that the symptoms repeat at least three cycles and linger for about five days before your period begins, ending on day four of your cycle. If your PMS is more extreme and disruptive than what we described above, you may be suffering from PMDD.

What is PMDD?

Only about 5% of women of childbearing age face premenstrual symptoms so severe that they interrupt daily life. Symptoms of PMDD can include all of the physical and emotional PMS symptoms, plus more. Here are some indicators of PMDD:

  • Sustained anger or irritability
  • Extreme mood swings: sadness, anger, anxiety, depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling out of control
  • Tension
  • Hot flashes

If your life is completely thrown off course each month a week or two before your period, PMDD is a real possibility. There is hope — PMDD is both preventable and treatable.

Preventing Premenstrual Symptoms

If your premenstrual symptoms are mild but bothersome, you don’t just have to sit back and accept the wave of discomfort each month. Preventing PMS or PMDD may be as simple as adding self-care to your routine. Are you performing these three self-care items daily?

  • Exercise: Helps with concentration, boosts energy levels, & combats depression
  • Healthy Eating: Avoid caffeine, sugar, and salt to stave off physical symptoms
  • Rest: Decrease your chance of depression and anxiety

If those three tips are not doing the trick, you may need to move on to treatment options to cope with the symptoms. During this stage, start documenting your symptoms so that you can discuss them with your online OBGYN in the future if necessary. You can journal the old-fashioned way with pen and paper, or download a phone app. Include the date, symptom, severity, and effect on your life.

Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications may help temporarily relieve your symptoms but they do nothing for prevention. Some vitamins and herbs may help with the prevention and reduction of premenstrual symptoms including:

  • Calcium (found in milk, cheese, & yogurt)
  • Vitamin B6 (found in fish, poultry, & fruit)
  • Magnesium (found in spinach, nuts, & whole grains)
  • Fatty acids including omega 3 and omega 6 (found in cod, crab, tuna, & spinach)
  • Herbs such as black cohosh, chasteberry, & evening primrose oil

Treating Life-Disruptive Premenstrual Disorders

So maybe you’ve already tried the preventative measures above and are still struggling with the severe effects of PMDD each month. Sometimes medication is required for treating the symptoms, including antidepressants (SSRIs), birth control pills, water pills, or pain relievers.

The great news is — finding support and treatment for premenstrual disorders is easier than ever in today’s digital world. If you need help with PMDD, you can schedule an online appointment with My Virtual Physician to discuss your symptoms with our board-certified OBGYN and make PMDD a thing of the past.

It’s important not to ignore your premenstrual symptoms if they are interfering with your life and relationships. PMDD can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem including: depression or anxiety, ME/CFS, IBS, or bladder pain syndrome. That’s why it’s critical to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if the symptoms don’t dissipate on their own. Premenstrual disorders are not a laughing matter, and My Virtual Physician will always take your concerns seriously and offer help.