Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

The Basics of Menstrual Disorders

        Health | Menstrual Disorders

The Basics of Menstrual Disorders <i>(cont'd)</i>

Symptoms of PMS may worsen with age and increase in severity following each pregnancy. Women who experience PMS may have an increased sensitivity to alcohol at specific times during their cycle. They often have a sister or mother who also suffers from PMS, suggesting a genetic component exists for the disorder.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is different from the more common PMS - it's far more severe. Women who experience PMDD (about five to seven percent of all women) say that it significantly interferes with lives. Experts equate the difference between PMS and PMDD to the difference between a mild tension headache and a migraine.

The most common symptoms of PMDD are heightened irritability, anxiety and mood swings. Women who have a history of major depression, postpartum depression or mood disorders are at higher risk for PMDD than other women. Although some symptoms of PMDD and major depression overlap, they are different:

  • PMDD-related symptoms (both emotional and physical) are cyclical. When a woman starts her period, the symptoms subside within a few days.
  • Depression-related symptoms, however, are not associated with the menstrual cycle. Without treatment, depressive mood disorders can persist for weeks, months or years.