For the nearly thirty percent of American women who struggle with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the largest sources of frustration can come from feeling as though the only symptom being treated is the absence of periods. In fact, many women complain that only the physical symptoms of PCOS are the focus of treatment while mental health is often ignored. These frustrations are validated by a growing body of research examining the correlation between PCOS and mental health.
For women with PCOS, anxiety is one common mental health concern. Studies suggest that abnormally high levels of testosterone production in the body can result in anxiety. Women with PCOS can also develop anxiety as a result of some of the symptoms associated with PCOS such as hair loss and hirtuism (excessive body hair).
In a manner similar to anxiety, PCOS can also lead to depression due to the distress caused by many of the symptoms of PCOS. Some studies have revealed that women with PCOS report feeling hopelessness, despair, and feelings of having a poorer quality of life compared to their counterparts who do not have PCOS. Women with PCOS are also at a much higher risk for suicide than women without PCOS.
Research suggests that there is indeed a correlation between PCOS and eating disorders, but there is often a disagreement as to whether PCOS is the cause of eating disorders or if those who struggle with eating disorders will go on to develop PCOS later in life. With weight gain being one of the most common symptoms, it is not unusual for a woman with PCOS to develop low-self-esteem or an unhealthy body image. For women with PCOS, it is especially important to find body-positive role models to help promote a healthier body image.
For many women, knowing that treating fertility issues does not need to be the focus of PCOS treatment can be sobering news. Studies show that a healthy, balanced diet and exercise can drastically relieve many of the physical emotional symptoms associated with PCOS. While a healthy lifestyle is by no means a magic pill or a universal answer, making healthy choices can go a long way in reducing stressful emotional symptoms associated with PCOS.
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Anthony Rivas, Medical Daily
By Becky Ruhter