Does PCOS cause depression?

girl-863686_1280Depression and anxiety are commonly reported in women with PCOS. In our PCOS online support group many women talk about their mood disturbances and ask ‘Does PCOS cause depression?’. It’s a good question. Does the clinical condition of PCOS cause depression or is depression a direct consequence of reduced quality of life due to low confidence and self esteem? Which comes first?


The Research

In 2009 two researchers in New Zealand attempted to find the answer to this ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum. They concluded that the study failed to find enough evidence to explain the high prevalence of depression among PCOS patients from the socio-demographic and clinical data they studied (Bhattacharya and Jha 2009). In 2011 Barry et al found that women suffering from PCOS who had a lower BMI, tended to have slightly lower anxiety and depression scores, suggesting that having a low BMI reduces anxiety and depression. This therefore indicates that reduced confidence and self esteem appeared to be the driver for mood disorders. Interestingly, Benson et al (2009) concluded that PCOS women suffering from acne and an unfulfilled wish to conceive suffered with significantly raised anxiety levels. A study by Rasgon el al (2003) found that depression was associated with greater insulin resistance and higher body mass index, suggesting that depression is caused by a combination of both hormonal imbalance and lifestyle factors. Conversely a study in 2014 were surprised to find that irregular menstrual cycles (and therefore hormonal imbalance) were most strongly associated with severe mental health problems, and not other symptoms related to confidence and self esteem such as weight gain and unwanted body hair.this can also cause hair loss problems.

So the research is conflicting. It appears that the question of what causes depression in women with PCOS and indeed which comes first, remains for now unanswered. However perhaps that’s not what’s really important here. Perhaps what is more important is that women are able to recognise the symptoms in themselves and actively do something about it and get the help they need.By paying close attention to mood disorders maybe PCOS can be treated more effectively.

How to Beat Depression and Anxiety

  • See your Doctor - If you are concerned that you may be suffering from depression or anxiety the first thing you must do is speak with your doctor. You doctor will assess your mood and help you decide if at this stage you need any treatment to help lift your mood. This should absolutely be your first step in getting help.
  • Get some support – Develop a good support network around you. This might come from family and friends, professional support or even by joining a support group or forum. Get talking and share with those close to you how you are feeling.
  • Diet – Somehow diet always gets a mention when anyone talks about PCOS but I can’t emphasis enough just how important your diet is when tackling your symptoms. Just a little bit of attention and some great changes will make all the difference. You can read more about diet and PCOS here.
  • Lifestyle changes – Making lifestyle changes is the first approach in beating PCOS symptoms. Concentrating on getting more active and exercising will make significant changes to your weight and therefore self esteem, as well as your general health. Exercise encourages the release of endorphins – your feel good hormones and is a fabulous stress buster. You can find out how to make the right lifestyle changes here.
  • Supplements – There are many supplements that will help with your PCOS symptoms and therefore your mood. Omega 3 has been shown to lower testosterone in women with PCOS and lower testosterone levels equates to an improved mood. Vitamin D is the sunshine hormone and vital to help beat your PCOS symptoms. Inositol is great for lowering your insulin levels, reducing mood disturbances and rebalancing your hormones.

By getting some help and making a few changes it really is possible to beat depression and anxiety and bring back to old you!

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