PMS — premenstrual syndrome — is something that at least 75 percent of women know about from personal experience. But how do you know if what you are experiencing is normal PMS or the more severe PMDD?
The symptoms of PMS
Our monthly menstrual cycles can come with some seriously uncomfortable symptoms. If you have a period, you probably know what they are: bloating, muscle aches, insomnia, tender breasts, mood swings, anxiety, and even depression. Altogether, these symptoms comprise what is widely known as PMS.
For some women, these symptoms become more than an irritant or an inconvenience. Instead, they begin to interfere with their ability to function during the day. When PMS symptoms become this bad, they are referred to as premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD.
What’s The Difference Between PMS and PMDD?
First, it may be helpful to know what the similarities are. Both disorders are caused by the changes in hormone levels during the period. In particular, the increase in progesterone and the decrease in estrogen around the time of ovulation trigger the symptoms of PMS or PMDD.
According to the doctors, the difference between the two lies in the severity of the symptoms. PMDD generally begins a week to a week and a half before the period begins and stops about a day before the period begins. The symptoms can include extreme depression, diarrhea, and cramping that does not respond to pain relievers. It is also primarily dominated by emotional symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness, extreme anxiety, and rapid mood changes. PMDD causes mood shifts that are so extreme that they can play havoc with your daily life, affect you work and damage your relationships. Some women report having panic attacks, feeling out of control and even having thoughts of suicide in the week leading up to their periods.
So how widespread is PMDD? It tends to be relatively rare, affecting between 2 and 10 percent of women, and disproportionately affecting women who have a history of depression. While it doesn’t usually start until your 20s, it can worsen as you age.
Both PMDD and PMS Can Be Managed
If you want to tackle PMS or PMDD, there are a few things you can try:
- Diet and lifestyle changes. Regular exercise often reduces PMS and PMDD. Reducing your caffeine intake, avoiding alcohol and nicotine may ease symptoms, too. Good night sleep and relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga, also may help. Try to avoid stressful and emotional situations, such as arguments over financial issues or relationship problems, whenever possible.
- Birth control pills. Taking birth control pills with no pill-free interval or with a shortened pill-free interval may reduce PMS and PMDD symptoms for some women.
- Nutritional supplements. Consuming 1,200 milligrams of dietary and supplemental calcium daily may possibly reduce symptoms of PMS and PMDD in some women. Vitamin B-6, magnesium and L-tryptophan also may help, but please ask your doctor for advice before taking any supplements.
- Herbal remedies. Some research suggests that chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) may possibly reduce irritability, mood swings, breast tenderness, swelling, cramps and food cravings associated with PMDD, but more research is needed. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate herbal supplements, so talk with your doctor before taking any of the supplements.
- Antidepressants. For truly severe and debilitating symptoms some doctors recommend serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They may diminish emotional symptoms, fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems. You can reduce symptoms of PMDD by taking SSRIs all month or only in the interval between ovulation and the start of your period.
These measures can help to alleviate your symptoms and make the week leading up to your period a little more bearable.
Women’s health is important to VIVA EVE
As uterine fibroid experts, we at VIVA EVE are concerned with all facets of women’s health and, especially reproductive health. Severe period symptoms can also signify the presence of fibroids or adenomyosis.