With PCOS, life is challenging. It can be frustrating to deal with the various symptoms that this condition presents itself with. Irregular periods, excessive hair, acne, weight gain and mood swings can sometimes make your polycystic ovary syndrome reversal journey overwhelming. While most sources may tell you all about how to take care of your physical health, how do you deal with the mental health complications of PCOS?
It has been estimated that most women with PCOS experience anxiety or depression, and most of them have no clue how to treat this. With the correct approach and optimal understanding of PCOS and its symptoms, you can manage the impact it has on your mental health.Start PCOS Treatment
The “mood swing” phenomenon is a common concept used to describe rapidly and intensely fluctuating emotions. People often describe mood swings as a “roller coaster” of feelings, from happiness and contentment to anger, irritability and even depression. It's not uncommon for mood swings to occur without an obvious cause. People may even experience changes in their mood if they have an underlying mental health issue.
Symptoms of mood swings can include:
Women with PCOS often report signs of mood swings, depression and anxiety. Mood swings can feel like rapidly fluctuating emotions that can manifest as irritability, temper, sadness and/or anxiety that results from hormonal imbalance. Many women do experience signs of mood swings, especially near their menstrual cycle. Although everyone experiences mood swings from time to time, in conditions such as PCOS, mood swings can seem to be frequent and/or intense and can invariably affect work, relationships and overall quality of life. Changes to a mood that is severe and prolonged should be discussed with a doctor/mental health professional. However, there are plenty of ways by which you can manage and cope with your mood swings. You may want to experiment with different approaches to see what works best for you.
There is a lot of scientific data that indicate that women with PCOS feel moody partly because of the imbalance of hormones in their bodies and partly because of how they feel about the symptoms affecting them. It is difficult to remain calm or patient when you have no understanding of the cause of your condition and are left with zero resources on how to manage all your symptoms. For example, some women may have mood disorders when they are trying to lose weight, therefore, do not see a lot of change in themselves despite restricting themselves from most unhealthy foods.
There can be many reasons that can contribute to feelings of moodiness including periods, work pressure, personal life event, an underlying health condition, among others. The trigger for mood swings can stem from what’s going on in your life at the moment – both physically and emotionally. Whether you realise it or not, being in a constant fight or flight mode can affect your mood too. Even the kind of lifestyle you live can have an impact on your mood. Having too much sugar, processed foods, alcohol, lack of sleep affect your hormones and brain chemicals, contributing to the feelings of moodiness.
Certain mood disorders can also trigger feelings of moodiness.
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk of experiencing anxiety. PCOS can take years to get diagnosed, and even after diagnosis, many women don’t receive proper medical treatment. This can make it difficult to deal with the symptoms and cause feelings of anxiety and mood swings.
The hormonal imbalance coupled with visible symptoms of PCOS such as acne, scalp hair loss, hirsutism, weight gain can generate negative feelings and affect body image and self-confidence. Some women may experience depression, which can affect them physically and mentally.
Being diagnosed with a chronic condition like PCOS can generate a range of feelings, including anger. Fragmented medical support, delay in diagnosis, stigmas,and lack of trusted information can cause frustration and anger.
Research indicates that women with PCOS have a higher risk for bipolar disorder, which causes extreme episodes of mood swings from high to low.
Women of reproductive age with PCOS often deal with a lot of thoughts surrounding this condition — about how their bodies look, how it has changed because of the symptoms, the health risks that accompany this condition and how there might be various challenges when you wish to start a family. These thoughts can become persistent, disrupt your quality of life and affect the way you live immensely. But you should be assured that you can deal with these thoughts with the help of various methods and the correct understanding of your own mental health.
If you experience fluctuating emotions, for example, being happy to suddenly feeling sad or irritable or reacting to a situation adversely for no reason, you could be experiencing mood swings. Mood swings can seem subtle but can affect your quality of life including personal and professional relationships.
To understand how to cope with the mood swings you experience in PCOS, it is essential to understand the reason for the symptoms and imbalance in your body. You may experience different symptoms such as insulin resistance, an increase in hair growth, an increase in testosterone levels or an increase in weight. These symptoms and your mental health can improve using different approaches.
Although occasional mood swings are normal — if you feel like the mood swings are affecting your daily life, you need to see a doctor. No medication per se can specifically help control your mood swings, but you can speak to a psychiatrist who can guide you on how you can control your mood swings, and in extreme cases prescribe medications.
What you eat not only has an impact on your physical health but also your mood. Research suggests that eating complex carbs, protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds can help keep blood sugar levels stable, which has been linked to improving people’s mood.
Regular exercise cannot only help lower insulin levels and keep blood sugar levels stable, which is critically important for improving your mood, but it may also help you lose weight. Exercise helps reduce stress and release endorphins (feel-good hormones) that can help improve your mood. Exercising may also be a welcome distraction from negative thoughts and help improve social interaction. Finding a form of exercise that makes you happy is key — be it walking, running, yoga, dancing or a team sport.
The importance of sleep is underrated — especially while managing chronic conditions like PCOS. Some studies indicate that poor sleep can produce a 50 % increase in insulin resistance within just a few days. In practice, this means that a woman with PCOS will experience a 50 % rise in blood glucose levels, despite following a healthy diet, if sleep is not proper. Hence, practising sleep hygiene such as going to bed and waking up at a fixed time, putting out devices before sleeping, practising relaxation techniques and avoiding the use of substances before bedtime is important.
Stress can sometimes feel inevitable, but it is in our best interest to manage stress levels. Practising meditation, mindfulness, journaling and taking up a hobby or leisure activity can help improve your overall mood and well-being. Knowing your triggers and managing them beforehand will help. Educate yourself on everything related to PCOS to know how to manage the condition and improve your emotional well-being. Just knowing that there are ways you can help yourself could motivate you and make you feel more empowered.
CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help you identify and change unhelpful or negative thought patterns and learn practical self-help techniques. CBT is used for a range of emotional health issues ranging from anxiety to depression. International evidence-based guidelines for PCOS also recommend CBT to help patients with this condition. A therapist or counsellor can guide you and work with you closely to help you implement these strategies after a thorough assessment of your problem and symptoms.
Lifestyle modification and forming healthy and sustainable habits are the most important steps in trying to treat your PCOS symptoms. “Whole” foods, when consumed by women with PCOS instead of highly refined or processed food, can make a significant difference in how they feel about themselves. This is because their blood sugar levels stay stable enough and balance any mood swings.
Studies show that loss of weight and regular exercise can help improve the menstrual cycle in a lot of women. Exercises also release “feel-good” chemicals that can elevate moods and prevent mood swings from occurring. Simple exercises coupled with a nutritionally rich diet can improve your body image even if there is no visible difference in weight loss. And yes, any workout is a great workout!
This method can involve the use of yoga and meditation to reduce stress. The stress you face due to the symptoms of PCOS can trigger different hormones in your body that can negatively affect your condition. Just focusing on your breathing and observing how the air rushes into your lungs can make you feel at peace.
It is a great method to practise if the mood swings become too much of an ordeal, and concentrating solely on your breathing can distract you from the anxious thoughts that normally make you feel moody. So, meditation and being mindful of your present and your existence can be good practice to keep your stress at bay.
Your mental health provider may want to help you manage your mood swings with the help of talk therapy while employing CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).
These therapies help your doctor to understand the patterns of how you think and behave. You learn more about yourself and find out about the negative feelings you might have that caused your mood swings. It can involve different activities, such as the usage of affirmations for yourself, journaling and recording your thoughts, practising exercises to reduce your stress and role-playing for a few situations.
It is always better to acknowledge and accept your thoughts than to find distractions to avoid the feelings you have.
When you are determined to take care of yourself through your PCOS journey, you may face a few setbacks that can aggravate your mood swings. It is crucial to set goals for yourself, but unrealistic goals can make you feel unfulfilled and incompetent. This can increase your cortisol levels and the mood swing can get worse. Speaking to a PCOS professional can help you understand your triggers and root cause.
If you are experiencing mood swings or other mental health issues and suspect having PCOS, take our online screening quiz to understand your risk score and get personalised treatment to suit your symptoms and concerns.
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