PCOS Awareness Month: How PCOS is related to mental health

PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome is one of the most commonly reported causes of infertility in women. The symptoms of this disorder are manifested as hirsutism, excessive androgen, absent or infrequent ovulation and menstruation, facial and body acne. In addition, women with PCOS struggle with many mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

Since this disorder is engulfing more and more women, the month of September is observed as PCOS Awareness Month to disseminate awareness and promote research, diagnostic and management methods.

Mental health concerns related to PCOS

The menstrual abnormalities in women with PCOS contribute to severe mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, fatigue, mood swings, low self-esteem and chronic stress. The negative mental health problems develop because of the physical outcomes of the disorder, such as obesity, acne, hirsutism and hair thinning.

In addition to this, women with PCOS have a dysregulated Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis, which leads to the development of depressive symptoms. The HPA impairment leads to enhanced peripheral metabolism of cortisol, abnormally high synthesis and secretion of androgen, compensatory overdrive of HPA and compromised feedback inhibition, which cause the onset of depression.

Substantial evidence has indicated that the medial and lateral regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are involved in modulating amygdala and limbic structures at the time of emotional regulation. The imbalance between the PFC and amygdala contributes towards the development of anxiety symptoms in women with PCOS. Women with PCOS are also highly susceptible to social phobia and suicidal ideation and have intense dysphoric feelings, which greatly affects the quality of life.

PCOS leads to other troubles as well

PCOS is regarded as one of the most common causes of ovulatory dysfunction infertility and it is likely that almost 50 percent to 70 percent women with PCOS struggle with insulin insensitivity. PCOS women are highly susceptible to gestational diabetes, miscarriages, preterm deliveries, and stillbirths. Androgen excess in women with PCOS interferes with the sleep resulting in the development of obstructive sleep apnea. Many women have regular cycles yet they have PCOS. Further, not all women with PCOS have ovarian cysts. The follicles seen in the PCOS women develop due to the hormonal imbalances. A very high percentage of women with PCOS also suffer from the fatty liver disease.

Road to recovery

The management of PCOS comprises a multifactorial approach, such as consumption of wholefood, fiber-rich diet with minimal sugar, engaging in regular exercise and  some form of yoga for weight management. PCOS is not just an endocrine disorder; rather, it can have major psychological implications as well. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals overlook these symptoms and thus, these remain untreated. The diagnosis of PCOS can cause severe depression and anxiety, which can greatly affect the quality of life of women, therefore, women diagnosed with PCOS must insist on receiving psychological support, along with other lines of treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the mental health illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, etc., contact the California Mental Health Helpline to get assistance in finding mental health facilities in California. For information on mental health centers in California, call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with experts. One should not shy away from treatment because of social stigma or discrimination or things can spiral out of hand. Timely treatment is the key to early recovery so one should not delay intervention as any cost.

Also read:

3 conditions that may contribute to anxiety and depression in women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5108561/

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