PMS vs. PMDD - Whats' the Difference?

Medical Author: Carolyn Janet Crandall, M.D., FACP
Medical Editors: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD and William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Ms. B.T. is 38 years old. Her co-workers always seem to know when she has her period. During this time, she becomes extremely irritable. She feels guilty because she gets very angry at her children for no logical reason or for apparently trivial reasons. In fact, one of her coworkers, with whom she is quite friendly, suggested she come in before her supervisor noticed problems on the job. She heard that there is a severe version of PMS that requires special treatment. Ms. B.T. wants to know if this is her problem.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has been the term used for mood, and sometimes physical, symptoms that occur cyclically (predictably in relation to menses) in the second half of the menstrual cycle and interfere with a woman's quality of life. Some women experience even more severe symptoms. These women may have a conditions known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

In order to determine what condition is affecting Ms. B.T., the doctor first requests that she keep a symptom diary, which is required for the diagnosis of PMDD. In the diary, she records in detail her mood and physical symptoms, and eating and sleeping patterns over two menstrual cycles.