PCOS and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and OCD often occur together. Discover how CBT can help people with PCOS manage these conditions.
- PCOS and mental health: Is there a connection? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with an increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- PCOS can also make the symptoms of psychiatric problems more severe than those of the general population.
- CBT can help people with PCOS understand and treat mental health problems and should be considered as one part of their treatment plan.
- Sound Cycle can help you find a CBT practitioner near you who works with people with women’s health issues like PCOS.
PCOS and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand. The hormonal imbalances of PCOS can make symptoms more severe, often leading to mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. Behavioral therapies like CBT can help address mental health issues and other symptoms caused by PCOS.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): An overview
People suffering from PCOS have an imbalance in their hormone levels associated with reproduction, metabolism, and emotional health. Their ovaries produce too much androgen, a sex hormone typically produced only in small quantities by women.
Excessive androgen production leads to a hormonal imbalance and creates changes in the ovaries, resulting in irregular periods and infrequent ovulation, which can lead to fertility problems. The endocrine disorder also causes the development of cysts inside the ovaries (though not everyone will have these).
It’s estimated that 5 to 10 percent of women between the reproductive ages of 15 and 44 have PCOS. The disorder can strike at any age after puberty, but it’s most commonly diagnosed in patients in their 20s and 30s. It affects people of all races and ethnicities, and you’re more at risk of developing PCOS if you have a close relative with the disorder.
Symptoms of PCOS
There are no clear causes of PCOS, though family history, obesity, and diabetes all raise your risk of developing the condition. Emotional and physical symptoms of PCOS vary from person to person, and you may only experience a few of the signs of the complex condition.
Primary symptoms of PCOS
Patients must experience at least two of these diagnostic criteria to be diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome:
- Excess levels of androgens. Doctors may find elevated levels of androgens, commonly known as male sex hormones, in your blood. Androgens, like testosterone, are usually found in small quantities in women, so elevated levels could indicate PCOS.
- Irregular periods. Your periods may be lighter, less frequent, or prolonged if you have PCOS. You may have fewer periods per year or have more days between your cycles. Your periods may also become heavier or more painful.
- Ovaries with multiple cysts. Your ovaries may become enlarged and contain more than one fluid-filled cyst. Your ovaries may also develop more follicles, leading to problems with ovulation.
Secondary symptoms of PCOS
Several secondary symptoms are also associated with PCOS. Excess androgen levels can lead to excessive facial and body hair growth (hirsutism), increased acne, and thinning hair along your scalp. About 7 out of 10 people with PCOS experience hirsutism during their lifetimes.
People with PCOS may also experience these symptoms and diagnostic criteria:
- Insulin resistance, potentially leading to diabetes or metabolic syndrome
- Changes in periods
- Weight gain, especially around the stomach
- Growth of skin tags on the neck or underarms
- Patches of thicker or darker skin under the breasts, in the underarms, and on the neck
- Fertility problems
Treatment for PCOS
Treatment of your PCOS depends on the symptoms and their severity, your overall health, your age, and whether you want to become pregnant. All treatment includes improving your diet and increasing your physical activity level.
A doctor may also prescribe hormonal medications to better regulate your hormones and reduce your symptoms. None of the current treatments cure the disorder, and the effectiveness of PCOS treatments varies from person to person. You may still experience unwanted symptoms while being treated for PCOS.
PCOS and mental health
A systematic review and meta-analysis has shown that people with polycystic ovary syndrome are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. PCOS also increases the severity of these mental health conditions compared to people without PCOS.
Another systematic review and meta-analysis showed higher rates of depression and anxiety in people with PCOS versus non-PCOS participants across 12 separate studies. People with PCOS are more likely to report suffering from mental health problems than the general public, and often their psychiatric and depressive symptoms are more severe.
CBT for PCOS can help
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people with PCOS by teaching them how to manage their symptoms, including any psychiatric issues.
What is CBT
CBT is a type of behavioral therapy that’s a variation of classic talk therapy. CBT is used to treat numerous conditions and disorders, including mental health problems. A therapist can help you become mindful of thought patterns and behaviors that are negatively affecting your life and health.
You will work with your therapist to identify and change your behaviors and thoughts to improve your emotional responses and symptoms. CBT can help manage a variety of physical and mental ailments.
How CBT improves PCOS symptoms
CBT is scientifically proven to help treat PCOS by reducing fatigue, improving quality of life, and reducing long-term health risks. Participants from all demographics in this trial showed a reduction of psychological fatigue and an improvement in their quality of life scores after completing CBT sessions.
CBT has also helped people with PCOS improve their health through weight loss. A randomized study found that overweight and obese people with PCOS and symptoms of depression who received 16 weeks of weekly CBT sessions lost more weight per week than participants not receiving CBT. This group also reported improvements in their quality of life and better results from stress tests.
Find a Licensed CBT Therapist to Support Your Recovery From PCOS
Integrative therapy like CBT can be used in addition to lifestyle changes and medications to treat the symptoms caused by polycystic ovary syndrome. Finding a provider for those services can be challenging.
Sound Cycle can help you find a CBT practitioner or providers who offer menstrual health and other complementary therapies for people with PCOS. We want to help you achieve holistic treatment for your health problems.
Find out more information from our website and use our provider directory to find a practitioner near you.