Wondering if PCOS and depression are linked and if so, how? You aren’t the only one.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week; a week to start conversations surrounding mental wellbeing and everything that can impact it. So, we looked into the impact of PCOS and mental health: are PCOS and depression linked? Does a PCOS diagnosis suggest an increased risk of anxiety?
Keep scrolling to learn how PCOS and mental wellbeing are connected.
Can PCOS affect mental health?
The short answer is yes, PCOS can affect your mental health. But then, pretty much any event or experience – including those which you might consider to be positive – has the potential to impact your mental health.
Worryingly, research has found that PCOS is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, and may also be associated with more severe symptoms than, say, someone experiencing a mental illness who does not have PCOS.
PCOS and depression: how are the two linked?
Honestly? Experts aren’t 100% sure why people with PCOS appear to be at a higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety and OCD, but it’s thought that it could be due to PCOS symptoms, hormonal differences or a combination of the two. Frustrating, we know.
It’s no surprise that individual PCOS symptoms (which include acne, thinning hair, irregular periods and infertility) so often associated with shame could be linked to an increased risk in depression and other mental illnesses. However, living and dealing with a chronic condition, such as PCOS, sure takes its toll too.
In one study, hirsutism was reported as being the most distressing symptom of PCOS, whilst factors including delays in receiving a diagnosis, and the practical implications of living with and coping with PCOS were cited as some reasons why it’s not uncommon for women with PCOS to experience high psychological distress.
And, as far as hormonal differences in people with PCOS are concerned? Well, one theory is that insulin resistance may be at play, since some people who have PCOS also have insulin resistance. A study found that greater insulin resistance is associated with an increased risk of depression, however, other similar studies have not arrived at the same conclusion, therefore there’s not enough evidence to say for sure.
Equally, whilst various other studies have explored the possibility that Androgens – a collection of hormones, including testosterone, which tend to be higher in people with PCOS – could be an influencing factor in the increased risk of depression and anxiety in people with PCOS, more research is needed in this area.
What helps with PCOS anxiety and depression?
If you are experiencing symptoms of depression (which include continuous low mood, feeling hopeless, having low self-esteem and losing motivation or interest in things) or anxiety (which include restlessness, irritability, a sense of dread and feeling constantly on edge), reach out to your GP for personalised guidance and to discuss treatment options available – and best suited – to you.
It’s normal to experience feelings of anxiety or low mood from time to time, however, ongoing symptoms of depression or anxiety that begin to affect your daily life should be shared with a health professional.
Mild stress and anxiety might be eased with techniques such as journaling, exercising, getting good quality sleep and spending time outside. Though, please bear in mind that whilst these measures sometimes relieve symptoms for the short-term, they are by no means a cure or replacement for professional help.