What Is the Difference Between PMS and PMDD?


My friend was diagnosed with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) last summer. Six months before her diagnosis, she started using a certain hormonal birth control, and after that, she began experiencing severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) issues. She became extremely depressed and anxious, having frequent panic attacks and even becoming suicidal.

This is just a sample of what many women go through. You probably get certain signs that your period is around the corner. For most women, this isn’t a big deal. Maybe they have tender breasts and food cravings. However, for other ladies, the days before their period are torture, and mess up their daily lives. There are two conditions called PMDD and PMS. Let’s jump into a deeper understanding of the two and get to know their differences.



PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. This is the combination of various symptoms that some women suffer from before their period. Symptoms may appear a week or two before one’s period starts and will eventually disappear afterward. The symptoms can affect ladies emotionally and physically and vary from woman to woman.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), on the other hand, is a health problem that is similar to PMS but is much more serious. It causes symptoms such as irritability, depression, and anxiety a week or two before your period starts. PMDD happens when hormone levels begin to fall after ovulation. It is estimated to affect up to 5% of women of childbearing age.


The sad news is that no one currently knows for sure what causes PMDD or PMS. What doctors and researchers do know is that it’s related to the way your body’s hormones change around your monthly cycle.

For PMDD, it is suspected that a brain chemical called serotonin plays a role. The levels of serotonin change throughout the menstrual cycle. Some researchers have cited that PMDD is triggered when the corpus luteum dies, leading to progesterone loss and depressing the central nervous system. Symptoms of both PMS and PMDD can be triggered by the consumption of high levels of alcohol, salty foods, and caffeine.


For PMDD, symptoms may include lasting irritability or anger, sadness or despair or even thoughts of suicide, tension or anxious feelings, panic attacks, mood swings or crying often, trouble thinking or focusing, tiredness or having low energy, food cravings or binge eating, insomnia, and physical symptoms such as cramps, breast tenderness, headaches, and joint or muscle pain.

For PMS, there are emotional and physical symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, joint and muscle pains, headache, acne flare-ups, and alcohol intolerance.


I hope you can now understand the thin line between premenstrual dysphoric disorder and premenstrual syndrome. If you need help managing PMS symptoms, try Comforté® cream.