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PMS Versus PMDD: Understanding Premenstrual Mood Changes

Have you ever heard of the term “PMSing” to describe how you feel or act the days before your period starts? Has anyone ever blamed your behaviors on your period in an overly critical or judgemental manner? It is not unusual for female bodied people to experience stigma surrounding periods. Emotions can feel extremely invalidated when peers comment on menstrual symptoms, without having full understanding of the body’s relationship to mental health. 

What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is when female bodied people experience uncomfortable physical & emotional changes the week or two before the start of their period. This is during stage 4 of the female menstrual cycle, called the Luteal Phase. If pregnancy does not occur following stage 3 of the menstrual cycle called Ovulation, the hormones Estrogen & Progesterone decrease during the last days of the Luteal Phase. These hormonal fluctuations can result in changes to mood.

Symptoms of PMS can include: 

What is PMDD? 

Some people may experience a more severe form of PMS called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), that can impact daily functioning. It is important to note that both symptoms of PMS & PMDD go away once the period begins, and sometimes they can be misunderstood due to this sudden occurrence of relief.  

Symptoms of PMDD can include: 

Mental Health Professionals are trained to distinguish PMS from PMDD, and to observe how changes to the body highlight life’s stressors. Although mood changes can be connected to PMS & PMDD, that doesn’t mean the emotions behind the distress are “not real” or “invalid.” A therapist can help you develop self-compassion surrounding your reproductive system, in addition to recommending the following supports: 

PMS & PMDD can make people feel disempowered towards their bodies & their minds on a monthly basis. Access to information, validation, & resources can encourage better understanding of mental health, which improves overall quality of life.

Siena Vaccara, LMHC Siena Vaccara received her master’s in Mental Health & Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. Siena believes in encouraging personal growth through education, cultural awareness, and building trusting relationships. She utilizes Feminist and Narrative treatment plans, as well as Cognitive Behavioral and Person-Centered techniques in session to incorporate an integrative psychotherapy approach that honors the unique needs of individuals. She understands the importance of the collaborative therapeutic space being non-judgemental, unbiased, open-minded, and strength-driven. Siena treats individuals with concerns ranging from personal transitions to family planning, identity, mood fluctuations, and stressful life events.

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