What's the Difference between PMS and PMDD?

What's the difference between PMS and PMDD?


PMDD is a severe form of PMS. Both PMS and PMDD have physical and emotional symptoms, but PMDD is so severe that it can significantly affect your life, job, and relationships.

It's like the difference between:

Snapping at your partner for chewing too loudly (PMS) 
A small argument causing you to question your self-worth and what you're doing with your life and then bawling for hours because you think you're a horrible person (PMDD)

PMDD can make you feel like two different people because you feel absolutely fine for 2-3 weeks of the month, and then BAM 1-2 weeks before your period you get super depressed, anxious, angry, feel hopeless, or even suicidal. Then as soon as your period starts, you're wondering what the heck just happened and have to repair the damage you may have caused to your job or relationships, and reconcile with yourself how you could have been feeling so horrible just a few days ago.

It can be a maddening cycle and you may need more support in addition to lifestyle changes to start feeling better. So how do you know when do talk to your doctor?

  • First and foremost, if you're ever feeling suicidal, no matter the cause, talk to your doctor asap or call 800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • If you have marked shift in mood, depression, anxiety or anger that is tied to your cycle.
  • If you feel like your PMS is extreme, especially on the mental/emotional side of things
  • If you've tried lifestyle changes (seed cycling, cutting out alcohol and caffeine, mindfulness practices, improved sleep, supplements etc) and you are still feeling symptoms of PMDD
  • You just feel like something is off

Before your appointment, it will be helpful if you have tracked your symptoms for a couple of months to see if there is a connection between your cycle and PMDD symptoms, and to understand how severe your symptoms are. This will help your doctor understand your PMDD and assess which kind of treatment will be most effective.

Here are some questions you may want to ask your doctor:

  • Are there any lifestyle changes that I haven't tried yet that would be helpful to try?
  • What do you think may be causing this? Could hormonal birth control be causing it?
  • Which treatment options are available? And which do you recommend for me?
  • What are the pros and cons for each?
  • How soon can I expect to feel better?
  • Ask for a referral for a therapist if you're interested in cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy with a professional

If you suffer from PMDD, know you are not alone! We are here for you if you have any questions about PMS, PMDD, hormones, and periods. There's no such thing as TMI with us.