Mental Illness + PCOS

Stigma surrounds mental illness. It prevents people from speaking openly about their mental health, seeking treatment and living their full lives.

This stigma falsely tells the world that mental illness is a secret that should be shamefully swept under the rug. 

In response to society’s stigma around mental health, I would like to quote the great Dr. Brene Brown:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

There are many parallels between PCOS and mental illness. There’s shame and secrecy around both PCOS and mental illnesses. Both cause people to feel the need to defend the legitimacy of their experiences. So much effort is spent trying to explain your experience you may even begin the question the validity of your own perception. This may also be the case for the many women that experience PCOS and a mental illness.

You may be surprised to learn that mood disorders are very common in people with PCOS. Women with PCOS are likely to experience:

  • Higher likelihood of having anxiety and depression
  • High rates of bipolar disorder
  • Increase likelihood of binge eating and having food cravings
  • Increased rates of disordered eating
  • Problems related to compulsivity, somatization, obsessive compulsiveness, interpersonal sensitivity, and hostility
  • Overlooked diagnosis for depression

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting? Get Julie’s FREE Road Map: Your First 3 Steps Toward Food Peace with PCOS.

Why do women with PCOS experience increased rates of mood disorders and other mental illnesses? 

The cause is unknown. Many researchers suggest the causes are actual PCOS symptoms. They argue that facing infertility, menstrual irregularities, and other PCOS symptoms may cause psychological disturbances. Other research suggests that the problem is in the hypothalamus-a part of your brain that regulates moods and has a central role in PCOS.

Although the exact cause is unknown, research suggests women with PCOS are more likely to experience some sort of mental illness.

If you have PCOS and suspect you may also experience a mental illness, don’t let the stigma around mental health stop you from getting help. Keep in mind your relationship with food and body may need extra attention.

To help manage my mental health, I try to avoid content that promotes unhealthy relationships with food. I manage my anxiety with meditation, somatic experiencing, guided imageries, listening to music, and lots of self-compassion.

By seeking treatment, voicing our concerns, and openly discussing mental illness, we are fighting back against the stigma.

Let’s continue this conversation in the Facebook PCOS Support Group. Click here to join! Do you experience mental illness? How do you manage it? What’s the toughest part? Connect with others going through the same in our support group.

References

Balen, A. (n.d.). Polycystic Ovary Versus Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Contemporary 

Endocrinology Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, 37-49. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-108-6_4

Blay, S. L., Aguiar, J., & Passos, I. C. (2016). Polycystic ovary syndrome and mental

disorders: a systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Volume 12, 2895-2903. doi:10.2147/ndt.s91700

Dokras, A. (2012). Mood and anxiety disorders in women with PCOS. Steroids, 77(4),

338-341. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2011.12.008

Mccook, J. G., Bailey, B. A., Williams, S. L., Anand, S., & Reame, N. E. (2014).

Differential Contributions of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Manifestations to Psychological Symptoms. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 42(3), 383-394. doi:10.1007/s11414-013-9382-7

Morosi, A., & Jeanes, Y. (2017). Food cravings, binge eating and emotional eating

behaviours in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society,76(OCE1). doi:10.1017/s0029665117000155

Podfigurna-Stopa, A., Luisi, S., Regini, C., Katulski, K., Centini, G., Meczekalski, B., &

Petraglia, F. (2015). Mood disorders and quality of life in polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology, 31(6). doi:10.3109/09513590.2015.1009437

Rassi, A., Veras, A. B., Reis, M. D., Pastore, D. L., Bruno, L. M., Bruno, R. V., . . . Nardi, A.

E. (2010). Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Comprehensive Psychiatry,51(6), 599-602. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2010.02.009