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How PCOS impacts mental health

The effects of PCOS often reach far beyond its physical symptoms. With the disruption of hormones, weight gain, and other debilitating symptoms, PCOS can be detrimental to your mental health.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a condition that can have major implications in the lives of women who experience it. With a slew of daily symptoms, PCOS has the potential to disrupt nearly every facet of daily life.

While PCOS is best known for its hallmark symptoms — unpredictable periods, disrupted menstrual cycles, and infertility — most women with PCOS deal with a host of other physical symptoms. PCOS can cause acne flare ups, hair loss, excessive body hair or hirsutism, oppressive fatigue, and persistent weight gain.

Many women with PCOS face another, more invisible symptom — poor mental health. PCOS has been linked to depression, anxiety, poor body image, low libido, and a general degradation of quality of life.

What is PCOS?

Affecting roughly 10% of women, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a condition which disrupts hormonal and metabolic processes in the body. PCOS causes the overproduction of the male hormone, androgens. The excessive presence of androgens in a woman’s body disturbs the menstrual cycle. As a result, she may develop clusters of cysts on her ovaries or lose the ovulation process completely.

The imbalances caused by PCOS are responsible for a majority of infertility in women. 90 to 95% of women who seek help with infertility are eventually diagnosed with PCOS — making it the most prevalent cause of infertility in women.

PCOS is an elusive condition that doesn’t present in any one specific way. As a result, many women don’t receive PCOS testing or diagnoses until they have trouble conceiving. With such a wide range of symptoms, PCOS is often determined through multiple tests.

How does PCOS impact mental health?

Beyond hormonal imbalance, PCOS impacts women’s mental health in a variety of ways. Contributing factors include:

  • Hair loss or alopecia. Women with noticeable hair loss are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Acne. Persistent acne is another common predictor of anxiety and body image issues.
  • Weight gain. PCOS-related weight gain can lead to depression, anxiety, and even feelings of hostility.
  • Growth of body hair. Hirsutism is a common predictor of distress in PCOS patients.
  • Menstrual problems. Studies indicate that Irregularities and pain related to the menstrual cycle are some of the strongest predictors for anxiety in women with PCOS.
  • Infertility. Women who experienced infertility were the most likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression related to their PCOS.

Overall, research indicates that women with PCOS are likely to experience more psychological distress than the general population. Many women with the condition exhibit levels of stress on par with psychiatric patients.

How can PCOS be treated?

It has been well documented that PCOS does not have a singular root cause. Instead, it is likely the result of a combination of environmental factors. Genetics, rapid weight gain, and insulin resistance are potential triggers of PCOS.

Because of this, PCOS can be treated via multiple methods. Common treatment plans include:

  • Weight management. The link between PCOS and obesity is well established. Improvements to nutrition and fitness — with a goal of maintaining a healthy weight — is often an effective way to manage PCOS. Your healthcare provider may recommend reducing your intake of alcohol, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. They may also suggest ways to support an active lifestyle.
  • Acne medication. If PCOS-related acne is having a negative impact on your mental health, your doctor may prescribe spironolactone or similar medications to help you manage flare ups.
  • Birth control. If you are struggling with symptoms surrounding your period or menstrual cycle, birth control may be an effective method for managing PCOS.

When developing a treatment plan, your doctor will take into consideration your family planning goals. Beyond managing symptoms, your treatment plan may include ways to support fertility and pregnancy if you are hoping to start a family in the near future.

When to talk to your doctor about mental health

Mental health is a vital part of your overall well being. If PCOS symptoms are starting to impact your quality of life, it is time to talk to your doctor about ways to manage your symptoms and support positive mental health.

When it comes to understanding PCOS and how it may be impacting your mental health, your health care provider should be your primary resource. Your doctor can help you learn more about PCOS, discuss the best way to test for it, and how you can improve your daily life.

Your healthcare provider will begin by conducting a thorough medical history, exam, and inquiry about your current lifestyle. Be prepared to discuss your current nutrition, fitness habits, and more with your doctor.

Alpha Medical offers online medical consultations as well as prescriptions for birth control and other medications. To get started, you will complete an online consultation and an Alpha Provider will work with you to help you best manage your health.

To learn more about the conditions Alpha addresses and start your online consultation, visit our website.

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Alpha Medical Team

Alpha Medical Team

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