Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine condition causing hormone imbalances, which can impact how your ovaries function. Five million women in the United States live with PCOS, making it the most common condition affecting the reproductive system.
Individuals with PCOS have higher-than-normal levels of androgens (male hormones), which can cause a variety of symptoms including:
- Irregular periods
- Multiple small cysts in the ovaries
- Excessive facial and body hair
- Skin problems such as acne
PCOS can lead to other health conditions, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure. Anxiety and depression are relatively common—around 40 percent of people with PCOS also have depression.
Depression is very different from just feeling sad. Some symptoms of depression include:
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of guilt and/or sadness Save
- Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
- Thoughts of self-harm
What science tells us about PCOS and mental health
Recently, more research has been done on PCOS and its effect on mental health. We do know there’s a link between depression and other mental health conditions and PCOS.
- Over 172,000 individuals with PCOS also had a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorder in a recent systemic review of 57 studies.
- A 2019 Australian study suggested higher rates of depression, anxiety, and stress in people with PCOS than in those without the condition.
- A 2016 review of six studies showed someone is three times more likely to have symptoms of anxiety with PCOS versus those without.
- Children born to those with PCOS could have an increased likelihood of having anxiety themselves, according to a 2018 study.
PCOS may be linked to mental health conditions
It’s not clear why there are higher rates of mental health conditions in those diagnosed with PCOS. However, some believe it’s due to the symptoms themselves.
PCOS can cause insulin resistance, meaning the body doesn’t process glucose correctly. Depression has been linked to insulin resistance, but experts aren’t sure as to why.
Increased male hormones, called antigens, might also play a role in depression with PCOS, although, again, the cause isn’t clear.
The symptoms of PCOS such as weight gain and infertility can often be hard to cope with. They can affect your overall emotional health as well as intimacy with your partner. Many of the symptoms of PCOS are out of your control even when you’re taking steps to be as healthy as possible. Save
Treating mental health conditions when you have PCOS
The treatment for depression and/or anxiety is the same regardless if you have PCOS or not.
If you’re diagnosed with depression or anxiety, it may be recommended you start an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. These medications can take several weeks to see an effect, and you may need to work with your provider on finding the right type and dose.
Many people also find it helpful to attend therapy either individually with a therapist or in a support group among other people who are experiencing similar circumstances. It can sometimes help to tell yourself you’re doing the best you can with your diagnosis and some of your symptoms might be harder to control on your own than others. Seeking out help for both your physical and mental health is a great step to take in managing your PCOS diagnosis.
If you have PCOS and are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, consider talking with your doctor. Reach out to make an appointment with one of our CCRM Fertility Specialists for a personalized work-up and treatment plan right for you.