PCOS and emotional wellness

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a multi-faceted condition impacting several aspects of a woman’s life including her psychological well-being. As a matter of fact, women with PCOS are about 3 times more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression than women without PCOS regardless of their weight, age and other socioeconomic factors. Studies say around 27% to 50% women dealing with PCOS report having mental health struggles.

What's Inside?

How are they related?

Body image issues – 

  • Several issues like infertility and hirsutism can be triggered by a pre-existing PCOS condition. Such issues in turn give way to distressing emotions. Women experiencing such symptoms report feeling frustrated and anxious about their weight, excess body and facial hair and even a sense of lack of control over their health and bodies. 
  • Societal impact is a prominent factor in addressing the psychological impact of PCOS. Women have to face a lot of judgement about their appearance and other physical aspects that are impacted by PCOS. This leads to social isolation and the patient doesn’t receive the necessary emotional support required to cope with symptom of depression and anxiety.

 

Hormonal differences – 

  • Some women with PCOS have insulin resistance that leads to higher levels of insulin in their bloodstream. Studies suggest that a high insulin resistance increases the risk for depression.
  • Androgens (a group of hormones) are significantly high in most women with PCOS. Higher levels of certain androgen hormones might be associated with higher probability of experiencing depression and anxiety.
  • PCOS causes inflammation throughout the body which increases cortisol levels. High cortisol levels are linked to higher stress levels and other psychological distresses.

What are the treatments available?

Therapy/Counselling – 

A multitude of body image issues are persistent with a condition like PCOS and negatively affects one’s self-esteem. Counselling can provide better coping strategies to women facing such struggles.

Situation-

I have excess hair

Core belief-

I am unattractive

Thought- People will judge me.

Behavior- I’ll take the best care of myself.

Challenges- People see me differently than I see myself.

Lifestyle changes –

  • An active lifestyle improves one’s mental health in general. Studies suggest women with PCOS who reported exercising at a regular basis had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. 
  • Healthcare professionals treat depression linked to PCOS by addressing the specific underlying cause. For example, if the woman is insulin-resistant, a low-carb diet might prove beneficial.
  • If hormonal imbalances induced by PCOS including excess androgen is a prominent factor behind an individual’s emotional distress, birth control pills are prescribed to address it.
  • There is a vast scope of improvement in depression and anxiety symptoms of women who receive acupuncture or practice mindfulness 30 minutes a day. Yoga practice that includes guided relaxation and breathing exercises prove to be beneficial for overall emotional health.

Support Groups –

Support groups provide an opportunity to connect with people facing similar struggles. Having a safe space to talk about one’s physical and emotional struggles can be therapeutic. There are both offline and in-person support group opportunities available.