Symptoms of Severe PMS

Symptoms of Severe PMS
Symptoms of Severe PMS (Image:

Severe PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is sometimes referred to as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) and differs from ordinary PMS in its intensity. New York-Presbyterian reports that severe PMS symptoms affect 5 percent of American women of child-bearing age. The symptoms of severe PMS typically last for two weeks, per period cycle, and can become extremely debilitating. Chronic symptoms that occur with every cycle over several months or years can greatly interfere with quality of life and social experiences.

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What is Severe PMS?

Before discussing the symptoms of severe PMS, it is important to first discuss what the disorder is and how it differs from normal PMS. In women who experience normal, monthly PMS, the hormonal changes that occur with menses can cause symptoms such as, cramping, fatigue, acne, bloating and irritability. But, for women who experience severe PMS, their sensitivity to fluctuating hormonal changes such as, a drop or increase in estrogen, is more intense. According to, serotonin may also play a role in severe PMS sufferers. As serotonin levels drop, a woman may find it difficult to deal with the overwhelming emotion and fatigue that occur with PMS.

Depression, Mood Swings and Anger

One of the most worrisome problems with severe PMS is the extreme mood swings and bouts of anger that are often associated with the disorder. Some women often exhibit feelings of depression that reflect a lack of self worth, helplessness, hopelessness and overall misery. Some sufferers may also begin to distance themselves from friends and fail to participate in social activities that they once enjoyed. The Cleveland Clinic states that in severe cases of PMS, physicians may prescribe anti-depressant medications that can increase serotonin--relieving depression and other emotional issues.

Sleep Problems and Fatigue

Women who suffer from severe PMS may also experience sleep problems such as insomnia. Unfortunately, lack of sleep, or interrupted sleep during the nighttime hours can result in debilitating fatigue during the day. In the book "Primary Care Sleep Medicine," author James F. Pagel MS, MD explains that hypersomnia (excessive daytime sleepiness) typically begins several days before menstruation begins and ends within a few days afterward. The extent of sleep deprivation varies from woman to woman, and can be a direct contributor to the irritability that is experienced during times of severe PMS. But, once normal sleep patterns return, so do better moods.

Increased Appetitie and Cravings

Severe PMS is often associated with increased appetite and food cravings that often lead to overeating. Mount Sinai reports that severe PMS sufferers may have overwhelming cravings for foods that contain sugar as well as those that contain salt. In order to overcome the excessive urge to eat, it is recommended that dietary changes take place. Instead of three large meals a day, six smaller meals may help curb cravings. Cutting down on foods that contain sugar and salt, before and after menstruation will work surprisingly well in helping the body quell the overwhelming cravings for these foods during times of severe PMS. Regular daily exercise is also helpful.


According to Women's Health Zone, bloating is a very common symptom for women suffering from severe PMS. Eating healthy foods and maintaining a well- balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein and whole grains can help keep your body regular and combat bloating. Caffeine and tobacco cessation, in combination with a reduction in sodium, may also be helpful.

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