Affecting upward of 6 million American women, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of infertility. Often believed to affect only women of reproductive age, PCOS is, in fact, a lifelong condition that distresses the body in a variety of ways.
In addition to insulin resistance, and the risk of diabetes and heart disease, women diagnosed with PCOS are also three times more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
Read on, to understand the link between depression, anxiety & PCOS, as well as what you can do about it.
Symptoms of PCOS?
Primary symptoms of PCOS include irregular periods and a sporadic release of eggs, meaning ovulation and fertility problems occur. Enlarged ovaries due to fluid-filled follicles on polycystic ovaries also contribute to fertility issues.
In addition, androgens, which are male sex hormones responsible for the maintenance of male characteristics, are overproduced by the ovaries, leading to excess facial and body hair, as well as thinning scalp hair, and acne.
When the above-mentioned primary symptoms of PCOS are not addressed, secondary symptoms are known to occur, including weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.
What Causes Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome?
Although the exact cause of PCOS is not yet fully understood, it is considered an endocrine disorder, meaning the glands that release hormones can be involved, as well as the receptors that react with hormones and the organs that are directly influenced by hormones. In the case of PCOS, the organs directly affected are the ovaries.
What causes this malfunction within the endocrine system is multifaceted and believed to be linked to several factors including lifestyle habits, genetic history, stress levels, diet, and a particularly strong link to high insulin levels or insulin resistance.
PCOS & Insulin Resistance Explained
Simply put, insulin resistance means that your body is unable to process the sugar in your blood and use glucose for energy. Over time, as insulin resistance worsens, the pancreas produces more insulin, until eventually, the cells that make insulin can no longer fight the resistance, and blood sugar levels increase, leading to diabetes.
While not all women with PCOS are diagnosed as insulin resistant, many are. Known connections between insulin resistance and PCOS include the following:
- High insulin levels or insulin resistance can increase androgen production.
- A family history of PCOS, obesity, or insulin resistance, is believed to contribute to the onset of PCOS in future generations.
- Persistently high-stress levels can signal the adrenal glands to release an overproduction of the stress hormone known as cortisol, which is believed to contribute to insulin resistance and PCOS.
- A lack of exercise coupled with an unhealthy diet of processed foods and simple carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice, as well as soda and sugary cereals, can increase insulin resistance and susceptibility to PCOS.
- Insulin resistance is known to cause weight gain, heart disease, and hypertension – three secondary symptoms of PCOS.
How Is PCOS Related to Depression & Anxiety?
Women with PCOS are three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, and although research into the connection is still ongoing, the cause of these mental health issues is believed to be multifactorial.
For example, PCOS is considered the most common cause of infertility, and women’s frustration and stress about not falling pregnant is certainly a factor to be considered when it comes to depression and anxiety related to PCOS.
Weight gain, acne, and hirsutism (excess growth of coarse facial, back, and body hair) are also common symptoms of PCOS, and female health experts believe that patients’ worries about their physical appearance could be a contributing factor to depression, eating disorders and/or anxiety associated with PCOS.
Another important dynamic is that low levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin are common in women diagnosed with PCOS. Known as a mood-boosting chemical that sends messages from the brain to the nervous system, low levels of serotonin are typically associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety.
How to Treat Depression & Anxiety Related to PCOS
Female health experts and endocrine specialists recommend several lifestyle changes to help women manage mental health issues related to PCOS. A natural supplement, specifically designed to treat PCOS, will also help with additional symptoms such as acne, hirsutism, irregular menstruation, and hormonal imbalance.
Understand Your Diet
When it comes to managing PCOS one of the first places to start is with your diet. Eating a healthy diet when it comes to PCOS is not about counting calories, but more about lowering insulin levels, preventing diabetes, increasing metabolism, and improving your mental health.
Many modern diets consist largely of processed foods and simple carbohydrates, which not only contribute to high insulin levels in women with PCOS, but these sugary foods can also lead to weight gain and exasperate anxiety & stress.
According to multiple studies, the ideal PCOS diet consists of whole grains, non-starchy vegetables & fruits with low GI, lean red meat, poultry, fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
Too much caffeine and alcohol can also affect mental health by enhancing feelings of stress and anxiety. While neither need to be eliminated entirely, try drinking just one coffee per day, supplementing subsequent coffee cravings with herbal teas that promote calmness, and always drink alcohol moderately. Drinking 1-2 liters of water per day to say hydrated will also help combat stress and anxiety.
Exercising triggers the body to release endorphins which lower stress levels and help you to feel happier. In fact, a recent study found that women with PCOS who exercised regularly reported feeling fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Exercise does not have to be strenuous to combat stress, depression, or anxiety. Walking, gentle swimming, or twenty minutes on a stationary bike a few times a week can make a huge difference to your mental health.
As a bonus, the combination of regular exercise and a healthy PCOS diet also helps women with the condition manage their weight and prevent heart disease as well as hypertension.
Practice Mind-Body Exercises & Therapies
Mind-body therapies such as yoga, meditation, and breathwork are powerful tools to help calm feelings of stress and anxiety in addition to preventing the onset of depression.
Research has shown that practicing just 30 minutes per day of yoga, meditation, or breathwork (or all three) increased the secretion of feel-good hormones, and significantly reduced stress, as well as symptoms of depression and anxiety in women with PCOS. It was also noted that their quality of life and life satisfaction considerably improved.
Natural Supplements For PCOS
Due to the influence of insulin on PCOS, natural health experts recommend a daily intake of the natural sugar called inositol, or vitamin B8, to treat PCOS symptoms like mental health, facial hair, acne, insulin resistance, irregular menstruation, and infertility.
Specifically recommended, is a 40:1 blend of Myo-inositol and D-Chiro inositol, which helps rebalance hormones, and regulate insulin, as well as the excess production of androgens in women with PCOS.
Vitamin D is also recommended as a mood booster, which is why here at Intimate Rose, we’ve combined all three, with added ashwagandha, to reduce anxiety and stress, support restful sleep, as well treat irregular periods, facial hair, and acne.
If you are suffering from symptoms like irregular menstruation, infertility, facial hair, acne, weight gain, and anxiety or depression, you could have PCOS. Scheduling an appointment with your doctor to have your blood sugar levels tested will help with diagnosis and treatment options.
It has been proven that women with PCOS are three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, but with some guidance from your doctor, a few lifestyle changes, and the inclusion of a natural supplement specifically designed to treat PCOS, you can manage your symptoms and significantly improve your quality of life.
Endocrine Society – PCOS - https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/pcos
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention - PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes - https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html#
National Library of Medicine - All Women With PCOS Should Be Treated For Insulin Resistance - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277302/
Endocrine Society - Mental health disorders linked with polycystic ovary syndrome - https://www.endocrine.org/news-and-advocacy/news-room/2022/cost-of-mental-health-disorders-linked-with-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-almost-$6-billion-in-2021
National Library of Medicine - Psychiatric disorders in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30066285/
National Library of Medicine - Dietary Patterns and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: a Systematic Review - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8643565/
National Library of Medicine - Physical activity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: prevalence, predictors, and positive health associations - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21288501/
National Library of Medicine - Impact of a mindfulness stress management program on stress, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25287137/
Mental Health America – Inositol - https://www.mhanational.org/inositol
National Library of Medicine - The inositols and polycystic ovary syndrome - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5040057/