Worse Than PMS? Know the Signs of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Posted on July 11, 2018


Many women recognize subtle signs that their period is about to start. An uptick in chocolate cravings, unexplained crankiness and fatigue are common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) that typically come and go relatively quickly. But for others, these symptoms are anything but subtle.

A small percentage of women (3%-9%) have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a medical condition that causes intense physical and emotional symptoms beginning up to two weeks before menstruation starts.

As with PMS, symptoms of PMDD vary from woman to woman. They may include irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, and sleep changes. The major difference between PMS and PMDD is the severity of symptoms.

Physicians diagnose PMDD through symptom tracking. It’s important to keep a calendar detailing your symptoms and when they occur. This allows a physician to see patterns and ensure that mood changes aren’t occurring at other times of the month, says women’s health specialist Holly L. Thacker, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health and executive director of Speaking of Women’s Health.

“Typically, a physician will have you track symptoms for three months with a menstrual and symptom calendar before making a diagnosis,” she says.

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