Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - Symptoms 

Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 

There are many different symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can vary from person to person and change slightly every month.

For example, you may find that you have similar PMS symptoms every month, but they vary in intensity, or you may have slightly different symptoms every few months. PMS tends to be different for every woman.

The symptoms of PMS usually happen at the same time in your menstrual cycle each month, which can be up to two weeks before your period starts. They usually improve once your period has started and disappear until your cycle starts again.

Common symptoms of PMS

More than 100 different symptoms of PMS have been recorded. Some of the most common are listed below.

Physical symptoms

  • feeling bloated
  • pain and discomfort in your abdomen (tummy)
  • headaches
  • backache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • breast pain
  • trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • nausea
  • weight gain (up to 1kg)

Any chronic (long-term) illnesses, such as asthma or migraines, may get worse.

Psychological and behavioural symptoms

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset or emotional
  • feeling irritable or angry
  • crying
  • anxiety 
  • difficulty concentrating
  • confusion and forgetfulness
  • clumsiness
  • restlessness
  • tiredness
  • decreased self-esteem
  • loss of libido (loss of interest in sex)
  • appetite changes or food cravings

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

While most women with PMS find their symptoms uncomfortable, a small percentage have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is the result of a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but are more exaggerated and often have more psychological symptoms than physical ones. Symptoms can include:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • persistent sadness or depression
  • extreme anger and anxiety
  • decreased interest in usual activities
  • sleeping much more or less than usual
  • very low self-esteem
  • extreme tension and irritability

As depression is a common symptom of PMDD, it is possible that a woman with PMDD may have thoughts about suicide.

PMDD can be particularly difficult to deal with as it can have a negative effect on your daily life and relationships.

When to see your GP

It's normal to experience mild PMS symptoms in the two weeks before your period starts. However, you should see your GP if the symptoms are making everyday life difficult.

Your GP may ask you to use a diary to record how you're feeling each day in the run-up to your period. You may have to do this for at least two or three months so your GP can spot any patterns in your symptoms.

PMDD is only diagnosed when your mood symptoms seriously affect your relationships and stop you from functioning properly at work or school. Your GP may refer you to a mental health specialist for further assessment and treatment if they think you have PMDD.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015


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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

ziris said on 03 October 2014

If you are not sure if you have PMDD or PMS

I had PMDD few years ago. It was worse... Everytime before Period I used to feel extremely suicidal even for small stuffs like rudeness of strangers, or not able to sleep at night. The worse part was I would not get my period unless I shout at someone... Sometimes my colleagues and sometimes my room mates and sometimes my parents.. . after shouting at someone I used to cry for half an hour and then I'll get my Period. My social life was totally devastated all relationships gone wrong and my career at stake. How much ever I tell myself i shouldnt shout at anyone this month, I'll end up shouting at someone... its was totally out of control.
Now I have PMS, It just make me tired with no energy at all, forgetful, clumsy, bit moody but not suicidal, during the second half of the menstrual cycle. and I don't have any confrontation with my colleagues or friends
My PMDD got better when I my PCOD (poly cystic ovarian disorder) was diagnosed and treated.

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bohoferret said on 03 August 2012

Can running 2 packs of combined pills together increase PMS?

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Xavier 3 said on 06 September 2009

When this is reviewed it would be a good idea to add "suicidal thoughts" and "crying at nothing" to the list of symptoms distinguishing PMDD from PMS. There's a good description from a sufferer here:

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