Ask most doctors and they can now list off the most common physical effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – obesity, infertility, and excessive facial hair. But often, the combined impact of PCOS and mental health issues are overlooked.
It’s very common for women with PCOS to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. Around 60% of those with PCOS will also show signs of at least one mental illness, according to a recent study by Columbia University’s School of Nursing.
And while hormonal irregularities play a big part, the changes taking part in a woman’s body can affect their confidence, sense of worth, and even their identity as a woman too.
To get a better understanding of how living with PCOS can affect mental health, we asked women to describe how PCOS makes them feel about themselves.
Here they bravely and honestly share how their PCOS and mental health issues affect them:
1. “How exhausted I feel after being social. That the anxiety is real, and that it can’t be talked away in a psychological session! That depression can hit you whenever, wherever, with no warning or triggers. How long it lasts and how bad it is varies and isn’t always the same. Most days I don’t want to leave the house, and some days I don’t. I simply can’t handle being around people some days.” – Hilde
2. “I feel like a woman that wasn’t quite finished, or maybe broken.” – Rebecca
3. “I hate myself” – Anonymous
4. “With the facial hair it doesn’t make me feel like a woman. With infertility I feel I’m never gonna have my dream of being a mum. With my weight I’m struggling to lose it no matter what I try so I get depressed because I feel like a failure.” – Bec
5. “I love myself but it’s been a constant struggle to try and stay positive. If not for my personal faith in God I feel I would be depressed and negative.” – Crystal
6. “Just out of control and confused about what I am supposed to be doing.” – Hayley
7. “The weight gain and facial hair growth have taken away any positive feelings I had about being a female. I am constantly very aware of other people looking at me like a lazy slob and that I am fat due to my own doing and that is mentally exhausting.” – Jessica
8. “Self conscious and even unclean – like I’m not doing enough to improve my acne from a cleanliness and beauty regime perspective.” – J Po
9. “I fell worthless, fat and ugly every day” – Sherry
10. “Angry and I often ask why me” – Amy
11. “Embarrassed. Horrible. Like a failure” – Nicole
12. “I really don’t like the facial hair… not very feminine. I often don’t have great self-confidence due to the weight, the hair…” – Sarah
13. “How hard it is to lose weight. The facial hair problems. How hard it is to fall pregnant. The mood swings and the mental health that comes with PCOS.” – Bec
14. “It changes your life. Hair loss, weight gain, inflammation and it’s effects on your body. I’ve experienced joint pain, upset stomach and other gastric issues. Your cycles are rare or non existent. I’ve gone from not having one to having one but have major PMS symptoms monthly to include night sweats and hot flashes since I was 35. Memory loss or just feeling foggy. Irritability for no apparent reason.” – Crystal
15. “That even though you can’t see anything, it is affecting me physically and mentally every day – some days more than others.” – Rebecca
16. “Some symptoms are debilitating and embarrassing.” – Anonymous
17. “That we know we have mustaches, beards, body hair, facial hair. No need to point it out to us. We struggle/deal with/cry over it every day.” – Kristy
If you struggle with PCOS and mental health issues, you are not alone.
If you feel you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue as a result of, or in addition to, PCOS, it is important to seek professional help promptly. Talk about your challenges with a trusted health professional, a psychologist, or a natural health practitioner who specialises in the area of mental health.
Lifestyle changes can also help. In my article 6 Simple Steps to Address Your PCOS Depression I share tips which have a track record of positive results to help to address PCOS and mental health issues.
But above all, remember to practice self-love and kindness and that you are not alone in this journey.