PCOS and Mental Health – What’s Their Relationship?

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.

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.

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, such as eating a healthy and balanced diet which allows room for small treats occasionally. Getting plenty of fresh air and exercise is also a fantastic way of keeping depression at bay: walking is, arguably, one of the best forms of exercise you can do because it’s free, low impact on your joints, and easy to build into your daily life. Whilst you may have days when you feel the need to shy away from the world too, it is vital that you keep up with your social life as best as you can because this contact will also help you to feel less isolated when low mood sets in, as well as giving you the chance to speak to trusted friends and family. If you feel that these symptoms are getting away from you then you must speak to a doctor as soon as you can; they will help you to understand what’s happening and support you in managing it.