Updated: 2018, Sep 4

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder & Premenstrual Syndrome: What’s The Difference?

By - Reviewed by CHD Team
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Q: I have heard about Premenstrual Syndrome but not about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Can anybody is here to tell me the difference between them?
Expert Answer

Overview on PMDD and PMS

PMDD is a serious mental condition which occurs in women a few days before the start of their menstrual periods. It is characterized by severe depression signs irritability and anxiety prior to menstruation. In some cases of PMDD, the symptoms can be disabling according to Mary M Gallenberg from the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

She adds that PMDD can lead to family break-up due to the extreme changes in moods expressed. PMS refers to several physical and psychological symptoms a woman experience 5-11 days before the start of menstrual flow. Though less severe when compared with PMDD, symptoms of PMS are present in a milder form and eventually disappears once the menstrual flow begins.

About a third of women will get PMS in the course of their lives with one in every 20 suffering from severe forms that affect their routine activities in life.

Causes of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

There is no known exact cause of PMDD. However, according to most researchers, hormonal changes occurring during menstrual cycles play significant roles. There is a strong connection between PMDD and low levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter chemical that regulates brain cell communication.

These brain cells use serotonin as a manager. Any drop in their levels leads to changes in moods, attention deficiency, altered sleeping habits and increased sensitivity to pain.

Causes of Premenstrual Syndrome

Just like with PMDD, the exact cause of PMS is still unknown. Its occurrence is attributed to changes in hormones in women during their monthly periods. There are notable changes in hormones during ovulation up to the start of the flow. The most singled out changes in hormones that are linked with PMS include estrogen and progesterone which occur before menstruation.

Signs and Symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

When is your doctor likely to rule out that you are suffering from PMDD? Before your physician makes a diagnosis for PMDD, he or she will conduct physical and psychological examinations to ascertain any other mental related illnesses such as major depression or panic disorder.

Other underlying medical conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids or thyroid disorders can interfere with the proper diagnosis of PMDD. A combination of at least five of the following symptoms is an indication that you could be suffering from this condition:

  • Changes in moods
  • Increased anger
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Remarkable Irritability
  • Tension and apprehension
  • Loss of interest in usual activities including your spouse
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Insomnia or sleep disorders
  • Physical problems such as headaches, bloating , backaches

Signs and symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome

There are several signs associated with Premenstrual Syndrome and their severity can vary depending with an individual. Moreover, then there can be a diversion from how the symptoms manifest from one month to another in some women. Some of the most common signs of PMS include:

  • Notable weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Loss of concentration
  • Frequent crying spells without apparent cause
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Rashes on the skin or acne
  • Changes in moods with episodes of depression
  • Frequent headaches or pain in the back
  • Fatigue or loss of energy

Comparison between Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and Premenstrual Syndrome

The majority of symptoms expressed during PMDD and PMS have a lot of similarities. However, for PMDD, there has to at least one emotional or behavioral symptoms that stands out. The severities of PMDD symptoms are higher as compared to those of PMS.

This may include sadness or hopelessness, tension or anxiety or notable irritability or anger expressed to the people arround. According to Mary M. Gallenberg, presence of anxiety or depression as an underlying factor for both PMDD and PMS are common.

The use of a combination of either Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) antidepressants work for the treatment of both cases. Birth control pills lessen the severity of symptoms linked to either PMDD or PMS. Proper diet and regular exercise play major role in regulating both physical and emotional symptoms experienced with both cases.

Last Words

Perhaps without the help of a medical expert, it is difficult for one to differentiate between the two conditions. This is apparent in women who have control in their moods. Presence of either of these two conditions can deter you from going around with your normal tasks both at home or work.

The presence of another underlying mental problem including depression or anxiety can worsen the symptoms of either PMDD or PMS. It is important to consult your physician for best treatment options pertaining to your particular case.

If no notable improvements or your conditions only worsen following prescription medications, contact your gynecologist for an alternative approach. In keeping fit through exercise and proper diet, you can put the symptoms associated with either Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or Premenstrual Syndrome at controllable levels.

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