The Truth About PMS

PMS is so commonplace among people with menstrual cycles that it’s generally not taken as seriously as it should be; I’m sure most of us have heard the joke, “Oh, she must be PMS-ing” at least a few times in our lives from people who don’t experience menstruation. But even those who do often still don’t understand what PMS and PMDD are, to what extent symptoms can be considered typical, and how to go about relieving those symptoms.

What exactly is PMS? PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome, and it denotes a group of symptoms that people may experience in the days leading up to their period. Symptoms can be both emotional and physical, with some of the most common being:

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Mood swings
  • Appetite changes
  • Poor concentration
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating and breast tenderness
  • Break outs

(For a more complete list of symptoms, check out this website or contact your local physician.)

The severity of PMS symptoms differ from person to person, but for some people, they can become a disruptive factor in their lives, forcing them to miss work or school. Sometimes, if the symptoms become repeatedly debilitating, they can be a sign that you’re suffering from PMDD, or Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder.

PMDD involves a lot of the same symptoms as PMS, but in this case, they’re even more severe. PMDD can hurt a person’s ability to perform day to day activities, and it can strain or even damage their relationships with friends and family.

A lot of people who have PMDD don’t even realize it, and as a result, they tend to just ignore it. When you’re dealing with rapidly fluctuating mood swings and bouts of sadness, you might feel disoriented and alone. And unfortunately, many people just tell those of us who experience them that we’re only making things seem worse than they are because we’re hormonal.

If you do struggle with PMS or PMDD, know that you’re not alone, and that your feelings deserve to be taken seriously; after all, whether or not it’s “just hormonal,” your feelings are still real.


What Can I Do About My Symptoms?

Because so many people experience PMS and PMDD, a lot of us to think we need to just suck it up and deal with them. Maybe we'll just pop an Advil or two and try to go about our day as normal, even when all we want to do is lie down for the whole week.

There are a few commonly used methods to combat PMS and PMDD, however!

  • Lifestyle changes: Exercising right can help lessen how hard your symptoms hit you, and it can just make you feel better all around. Research shows that regular aerobic exercise improves mood symptoms of PMS, with walking, swimming, and jogging being considered the best activities. Think of it like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: taking care of yourself physically can help you reach the step of taking care of yourself emotionally.
  • On the same vein, relaxation therapy is another healthy lifestyle change that can alleviate your symptoms. Relaxation therapy can help quiet the mind and reduce one’s stress levels overall, which can reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety. Incorporating different relaxation techniques into your daily routine can help improve your quality of life overall.
  • Medication: Although there is no “cure” for PMS or PMDD, there are still medications which can help alleviate the symptoms. Two of the most common options are birth control and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
    • Birth control not only helps with emotional symptoms, but also physical symptoms before, during, and after one’s period. There are many different options out there with a range of prices and maintenance levels, so you can figure out what works best for you. Personally, I’ve found that the birth control pill has drastically reduced my own symptoms: my cramps are much less painful, my moods are more stable, and even my skin has pretty much completely cleared up since I started taking it.​
    • SSRIs are more commonly known to treat depression and anxiety disorders, but because conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder tend to mimic PMS and PMDD, SSRIs have proven to be effective agents in reducing PMDD symptoms in particular. The user might only have to take the medication during the second half of their menstrual cycle, depending on their doctor’s recommendation, and can still benefit from its relieving effects.

Even if your symptoms are fairly mild, don’t feel afraid to reach our to a loved one or your doctor for support and advice. Talk to your physician or Gynecologist in order to figure out a plan that works for you, including treatments that stretch beyond the ones listed above.

PMS and PMDD can be just as debilitating as physical illnesses, and they should be taken just as seriously by those who experience their symptoms; just remember that no matter what, you aren’t alone in fighting this.