5 Ways to Take Care of your Mental Health When you Have PCOS

Living with PCOS can be a distressing experience. For many women, the sudden excess of hair growth or hair loss, weight gain, acne, or potential infertility can be devastating and is liable to have a big impact on their mental health.

Understandably, this can vary from experiencing low mood about appearance to a recently discovered correlation between PCOS and an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as low mood, increased anxiety, or behaviour-altering feelings then it is vital you speak to your GP as soon as possible.

Is there a higher chance of mental health issues if you have PCOS?

In recent years, there has been a lot more research done into the relationship between PCOS and mental health issues. Cardiff University recently conducted a study of 17,000 women which found that there is an increased chance of PCOS sufferers experiencing heightened risks of depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Equally, various other studies have found similar results with an average of 27% to 50% of women with PCOS experiencing symptoms in comparison to just 19% of women without PCOS. The exact reasons for this remain unclear although there are a number of theories.

Theories about mental health and PCOS

The prevailing reason many assume this correlation exists is due to the stress of living with PCOS. As we know, managing symptoms and living with side effects can be demoralising and tiring for many women. However, a lot of women with PCOS are also insulin-resistant which is a condition often associated with depression due to an elevated amount of blood sugar. Equally, PCOS is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body – a condition which can lead to increased amounts of cortisol which is known to increase stress levels in the body.

Even more conclusively, PCOS is often associated with weight gain and the relationship between obesity and depression is one that is excessively well-chronicled, regardless of whether the sufferer has PCOS or not. Therefore, it is clear that ladies who have PCOS are at a far higher risk of having mental health issues.

With this in mind, it is important that you take good care of yourself and act promptly if you begin to feel symptoms of low mood. There are plenty of things you can do to help to counteract anxiety and depression.

Your mental wellbeing is a priority, and should be treated as such. So, here are 5 ways to take care of your mental health when you have PCOS.

5 ways to take care of your mental health when you have PCOS

1. Set – and enforce – boundaries

Managing PCOS symptoms and side effects can be incredibly distressing, therefore it’s important to set boundaries to protect your mental wellbeing. Healthy boundaries can look like minimising time spent with people who can’t offer the kind of support you require, or unfollowing social accounts that negatively impact your self esteem.

Healthy boundaries can also include prioritising rest when symptoms cause discomfort, and respectfully declining invites to social events you find triggering if you’re trying to conceive, for instance.

2. Move your body

Exercise has many benefits for people with PCOS – including its ability to significantly improve your mood.

Movement triggers the release of endorphins (known as feel-good hormones) in the body, which help to reduce stress and anxiety and increase feelings of pleasure.

Not sure where to start? Try steady-state cardio (cycling, jogging or walking for example), yoga, or strength training. Dancing in the kitchen works, too.

3. Prioritise sleep

Your body does its best recovery work – both physical and mental – whilst you’re asleep, so it makes sense that poor quality or disrupted sleep can negatively impact your mental health. It can meddle with your mind, causing difficulties with thinking clearly, plus increased feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety.

Good sleep hygiene – going to bed at the same time every day, powering down devices at least an hour before bed, and participating in activities, like meditation and journalling, that help to encourage feelings of calm – can really help to improve the quality of your kip. Though, speak to your GP if you’re having difficulty falling and staying asleep frequently.

4. Be kind to yourself

Sometimes easier said than done – we tend to be our own harshest critics – but try to show yourself some compassion, and ease up on the judgemental self talk.

Recognise that some days will feel less productive and less positive than others, and that’s OK. Give yourself some recognition for how far you’ve come.

5. Ask for help when you need it

There’s no shame in asking for support. Reach out to loved ones when you need a shoulder, an ear, or a hug, and try – if possible – to find a community of people with PCOS to connect with (PCOS charity Verity has a network of volunteer-run local groups you can join, and we have a private Facebook group for people with PCOS to support one another).

If feelings of depression or anxiety begin to affect your ability to complete daily activities, speak to your GP for additional support.

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