PCOS and the effects on your mental health

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As part of PCOS Awareness Month this month (September 2020), today we will explore the effects Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has on a woman’s mental health and offer some tips on how to cope.

The advice below is a general guide and should not replace speaking to your doctor about your own circumstances and experiences. If you live with PCOS, or think you might have this complex hormonal condition, please contact Eve Health for ways we can help.


PCOS and your mental health

Emotional problems, including anxiety and depression, are common in women with PCOS, but are often overlooked and are therefore left untreated.

Experiencing the symptoms of PCOS – such as irregular menstrual cycles, obesity, being underweight, fertility problems, acne, hair loss or excess hair growth and other conditions – can negatively affect your mood, body image and self-confidence. It can sometimes be difficult to cope with PCOS symptoms especially if you don’t know the cause. Negative feelings can also eventuate if it is taking a long time to receive a diagnosis or if you’ve received unhelpful information along the way.

Once diagnosed women report varying emotions. Some people experience feelings similar to that of grief – like shock, disbelief, anger, frustration, sadness, numbness. Others might find acceptance quickly.

It is important to keep your mental health in check and seek support if you should ever feel you are not coping, because help is available.


About depression and anxiety

Depression is a serious, yet common illness which negatively affects the way you think, feel and act. Persistent, extreme negative feelings and thoughts are common in people with depression. As well as the emotional affects, the illness can make it difficult to do physical everyday tasks such as sleeping and eating.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of nervousness, fear or worry that something bad is happening or will happen. Sometimes, for some people, these feelings can become persistent or extreme and can interfere with daily life.

While anxiety and depression have physical and psychological effects, they can also affect your social relationships. Please see a doctor if you have feelings of anxiety and depression and are not coping. There are medication options available, as well as information about natural ways to manage your mental health. Some of these tips are below.


What you can do to help your wellbeing  

  1. Keep an eye on your mental health

It’s important to check in with your mental health regularly, asking yourself how regularly you are:

  • feeling down, depressed or hopeless
  • losing interest or pleasure doing everyday things
  • constantly worrying
  • feeling nervous, on edge or anxious.

When you answer often to any of these questions, it’s best to consult your doctor for support, and if required, gain a referral to a counsellor or psychologist.

As part of keeping an eye on your mental health, it can be helpful to think about what factors are influencing your emotional health. They could include the physical and psychological changes of living with a PCOS, or it could be lifestyle and stress, your genetics, your personality and thinking, self-esteem, body image, your relationships or your experiences and coping style. Sometimes if you can pin-point what might be causing your stress, it can help you and your doctor find treatment for the underlying cause, such as medication, lifestyle or diet changes, or talking therapy such as counselling.


  1. Have a healthy lifestyle

One of the most effective ways to treat PCOS symptoms is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes being as physically active as possible, eating a nutritious diet and trying to maintain a healthy weight.

Poor emotional health can make it difficult to look after yourself though, so one of the best things you can do is be aware of the effect your mood has and how it relates to your lifestyle.

  • Jean Hailes For Women’s Health has a good diet guideline and daily menu plan here, for managing PCOS symptoms as well as examples of physical activities recommended.


  1. Support your emotional health

Emotional health and your overall wellbeing can be improved by learning more about PCOS, seeking support and appropriate treatment.

If you live with PCOS, your needs may change throughout your life. Seek support from health professionals, including doctors, psychologists, counsellors and exercise physiologists. It’s also important to seek social support from family, friends and other women who live with PCOS if you can.

There are Medicare rebates available to see a psychologist for up to 10 sessions per year too, so please see your GP regarding this.


Sources & further reading about PCOS and mental health:

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