PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Mental Health

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an extremely complex disease that doesn’t only affect the body, but also mental health. Women with PCOS suffer from anxiety disorders and depression much more often than others. An increased risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and eating disorders is also suspected.

How PCOS can impair mental health

It is not yet known exactly why PCOS patients struggle with psychological problems more than others. But there are some very good guesses and ideas.

Obviously, the PCOS symptoms themselves can present a significant psychological burden for many patients. Infertility, obesity, acne and hirsutism (excessive facial and body hair) lead to stress and worry.

And the typical changes in the hormone balance in PCOS may very well contribute as well. Every woman knows how strong hormonal turbulence can affect mental well-being even in normal times – just think of the emotional turmoil just before menstruation, during pregnancy, shortly after childbirth or, for example, under the influence of artificial hormones (depression is a well-known side effect of birth control pills). So it stands to reason that the hormonal turbulence that is so typical of PCOS surely must have an impact on the psyche of those affected.

It is also conceivable that people with PCOS who suffer from anxiety or depression have altered neurotransmitter levels. For example, one study showed that PCOS patients who had low levels of serotonin  (a chemical messenger in the nervous system associated with positive feelings) were more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.

This is how PCOS patients can support their mental health

Medical support

If you suffer from PCOS and are repeatedly depressed or anxious or notice mood swings, it is important not to deal with everything yourself, but to talk to your health carer about your problems and concerns. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now: There is way more support available than you think!

Lifestyle and mental health

In addition to the medical options that you can discuss with your health carer, there are things you can do yourself to make you feel better. It is known from many studies that an active lifestyle helps to improve mental health in most people. However, you should be aware that changing your lifestyle does not work as quickly as a drug, but that long-term and therefore sustainable effects are key.

Studies show that people with PCOS who exercise regularly are significantly less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. The effect on depression can be measured from at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate physical activity.

So make sure you set aside at least 2.5 hours a week for exercise. Anything you enjoy is perfect. Don’t exaggerate, but increase slowly, that’s the only way to stick with it. You may have guessed it already : This isn’t about 2 weeks in January, it’s supposed to be something long-term 😊

So feel free to do some brainstorming: what would I enjoy doing? Turn up the music and  dance in the apartment? A walk in the woods? Explore the area on a bike tour? Maybe even try a new hobby?

And if time is in short supply: where can I take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can I walk the last bit on the way to work? Can I walk over to the neighboring office for a personal conversation instead of writing an email (I’ve just read that it’s also much more environmentally friendly  and – depending on the colleague – often nicer, too) – feel free to be creative 🌺

Found something? Excellent! Now, it is still important to ensure a balance in your life so that, in addition to more activity, relaxation should also have a regular place. Awareness exercises are ideal, but yoga, guided relaxation, breathing exercises, and meditation may also reduce the symptoms of anxiety disorders in people with PCOS.

Dietary supplements

Drugs like metformin, which help the body use insulin properly, are known to improve symptoms of depression in people with PCOS. As an alternative to metformin and much more gentle, the natural food component inositol, which is also used as a food supplement, can be used to the same effect.

Taking omega-3 fatty acids – either alone from fish oil or in combination with vitamin D – also seems to be able to alleviate depression and anxiety in people with PCOS.

Unfortunately, the number of scientific studies on the subject is still quite limited, but it can’t hurt to try out for yourself what’s good for you 😊

 

Have you already made your own experiences with changing your lifestyle and diet? Have you already used dietary supplements? Write to us in the comments!

 

 

References:

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About the author

Dr. rer. nat. Birgit Wogatzky

For many years now, biologist and nutritionist Dr Birgit Wogatzky, has been focusing on the special needs of fertility patients. For the readers of this blog, she sums up interesting novel information and developments from current research projects regarding lifestyle and nutrition of fertility patients.

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