Symptoms Of Depression In Women With PCOS

Mood disorders in PCOS require equal attention as do the physical symptoms. And depression is one of the commonly reported mood disorder with nearly 40% of women being affected with varying degrees.

Posted on June 5, 2022 ·

BY Team Veera

Medically Reviewed

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Everyone has those bad days when everything seems to be dull and your mind just needs to relax! However, how extreme are these feelings when a person has a chronic illness like PCOS? There is nothing worse than being called “moody” or “sad” and more attention needs to be given to women with PCOS who show signs of depression and are actually suffering from depression. When you feel depressed, it’s more than just feeling sad — it can affect your life.  

PCOS and depression

Almost 40% of women with PCOS experience depression or its symptoms, and there are a variety of reasons for this:

1. The underlying hormonal imbalance can affect your mood and overall well-being
2. It can be difficult to cope with the complications of PCOS such as diabetes or fertility issues
3. The experience of watching your body changing over time as a result of hormonal imbalance can have a significant impact on your mental health.

It is very difficult to manage and can become frustrating to deal with weight gain, alopecia (loss of hair), hirsutism (excessive hair growth), and acne.

There are few measures to address the depression faced by women with PCOS, even though it affects their mental health so much. A healthy lifestyle is recommended for PCOS women, but if you are depressed, you may find it hard to maintain your weight.

It is important to keep in mind that depression is not just being sad or moody. People with depression often describe it as a pit they struggle to escape, but are unable to do so. Desperation and frustration are clear indications of the severity of the problem and the need for assistance. Women with PCOS often feel different forms of depression and that can be because of how their PCOS symptoms affect them.

Symptoms of depression in women with PCOS 

Fatigue, headaches and difficulty in concentrating at work/study

Feeling tired, losing focus and having headaches can become a part of your life if you have PCOS. However, fatigue in PCOS can be curbed if you know the underlying reason of it. Most PCOS fatigue stems from low levels or deficiency of Vitamin B12 or Vitamin D levels or anaemia. An underactive thyroid could also be the reason for your fatigue. The increase of hormone levels in your blood can also trigger headaches. Your fatigue and headaches may also be a result of side effects from the medication you take to control the other PCOS symptoms. Extreme lethargy and intense headaches are an indication that there is a substantial hormonal imbalance in your body. This is one of the primary symptoms of depression since fatigue, loss of focus and headaches can make you feel bad about yourself and even isolate you in many forms – both socially and psychologically.

Feelings of sadness, loneliness and lack of motivation to do day- to-day tasks

One of the biggest challenges while dealing with PCOS is staying motivated. When you are first diagnosed with PCOS, you feel the need to regain control over your body. And this is achieved by searching for ways to alleviate your symptoms and living a significantly healthier life. For the first few weeks or months, you may feel motivated enough to stay mindful about your meals, making the right lifestyle choices and prioritizing your overall well-being. However, with positive results, you may feel like taking a break from the entire hassle and start slacking off on these practices.

Sometimes, when you do not see any visible or tangible changes in your body, it may feel discouraging to try further. Under such circumstances, accepting and moving on with reality can take a backseat and depression can take control.

Instead of going down this rabbit hole, it is recommended to turn the choices you make into habits that you can inculcate over several months mindfully. This can prevent you from looking forward to results and help you stay motivated.

Digestive problems

Since PCOS is a hormonal disorder, it is directly linked to all the hormones that are in your bloodstream including the ones in your stomach. Due to an imbalance in the hormones that cause ovulation, your gut might get mixed signals about diarrhoea or constipation and disturbs the balance in your stomach. These instances occur when the hormonal imbalance is increased, indicating that your PCOS needs attention. It is also a sign of depression since the stress that accompanies depression can trigger digestive issues and inflame your gut significantly. Your mood is not just something abstract, it has the capacity to manifest itself physically too due to the involvement of various hormones.

Feelings of guilt, changes in appetite

When you are unable to find any positivity in your routine to get better with PCOS, you may feel mixed emotions regarding the entire situation of having a chronic illness and how to deal with it. If you are depressed, you may find it even more difficult to have the will to lose weight or lead a healthier lifestyle. There have been studies to understand how changes in appetite is linked to PCOS, and craving for sugary carbs has been highlighted frequently. Depression can make you feel really hungry one moment and you may binge-eat some high-calorie foods. This is usually followed by guilt and high glucose levels that can cause further hormonal imbalances.

Mood swings 

It can be difficult to contain your emotions when there is a surge of imbalances in your hormones. Mood swings are a common symptom of PCOS, but it is also indicative of depression since there is a persistent feeling of sadness that gives rise to outbursts of emotions that do not occur usually. These outbursts are often the biggest red flags and symptoms of depression and are the ultimate cry for help. 

These symptoms should not be ignored and any help suitable should be immediately sought for. If you notice any of your friends’ with PCOS facing these symptoms, support them through it and uphold their choice to visit a mental health expert to take care of the same.

Disclaimer: Content on Veera is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, or as a substitute for medical advice given by a physician

Verified by Dr. Iris Lee

Fellow in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Lee is a fellow in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed medical school and residency training at the University of Pennsylvania as well. Her work focuses primarily on PCOS, particularly the metabolic and mental health implications. Outside of work, she enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and two puppies.

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