Let's be honest, the only good thing about a woman getting her period is eating chocolate. Chocolate contains magnesium that aids in minimizing the pain that comes from cramps. If you are reading this article, you either must be interested in severe Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). I happen to be apart of the 3-5% of the menstruating population that has PMDD and I wanted to give you the lowdown on the differences between them and how to manage the symptoms.

(Disclaimer: This information should not take the place of receiving professional medical treatment or advice.)

What is PMS?

Most women experience PMS before their period and it usually involves anger, anxiety, depression, abdominal bloating, headaches, fatigue, social withdrawal, irritability, etc. 

The discomfort of PMS can be minimized with a few changes in diet and exercise. Working out regularly releases endorphins which may help to decrease the pain felt from PMS. Switching up your diet, especially to reduce caffeine and sodium intake, can help to reduce the symptoms of PMS. The effects of caffeine heighten before your period and can lead to increased breast soreness, anxiety, and irritability. 

PMS causes women to experience water retention and bloating. This can also be increased when consuming large amounts of salt. It is recommended to try to limit one's intake of salt and increase the amount of calcium consumed to help stop the bloating. Some examples of food high in calcium include soy milk, broccoli, tofu, and almonds.

What is PMDD?

PMDD is a more severe form of PMS and is usually identified by extreme mood swings and irritability. Unlike PMS, PMDD can be found in the DSM-5. About 15% of women with PMDD attempt to commit suicide at least once in their lifetime.

PMDD can be diagnosed my a medical professional if a majority of these symptoms are present including irritability, anger, increased personal conflict, depressed mood, self-deprecating thoughts, marked anxiety and depression, insomnia, joint pain, breast soreness, bloating, and an out-of-control feeling.

I have PMDD and the best way to describe it is to imagine the pain and discomfort PMS on steroids. The irritability and mood swings I experience are something that makes me feel like a different person. I always know when I am going to get my period because a week or two before it, my mood completely shifts and I am barely able to make it through the days without crying or yelling.

The only positive side I guess to having PMDD is that when your period comes, these symptoms decrease. For me, I return to my normal functioning state and can actually function without pain or discomfort. 

Treatment Options

Fortunately, there are several treatment options for PMDD, including the use of antidepressants and in some cases birth control. These are usually the first lines of treatment that doctors suggest to their patients to help manage their symptoms. Different hormone therapies are also effective, but are rarely prescribed to patients. 

Personally, I do not think I have found the right option for me, but I have high hopes that I will in the future. Dealing with PMDD can be extremely difficult as it is hard to find others who deal with it since only such a small percentage of the population suffers from it. 

My best advice would be to take the best care of yourself as possible during this time meaning sleep, exercise, eat right, go to therapy, and other self-care regimens that keep you happy.