Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterus. The chronic pain of endometriosis can lead to mental health conditions such as depression.

A woman with endometriosis and depression is seen on her bedShare on Pinterest
SolStock/Getty Images

Many people with endometriosis experience severe pain, bloating, and cramping, especially during and before their menstrual periods. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers and home remedies can help, but they don’t completely relieve the significant pain that people with endometriosis often experience.

The ongoing pain can affect a person’s daily life. Some people with the condition develop depression, a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States and affects almost twice as many females as males.

Read more to learn about the link between endometriosis and depression, how people can cope, and more.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

According to a 2017 literature review, people with endometriosis report high incidences of psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Research suggests a link between endometriosis and depression. However, scientists do not yet know how or if endometriosis directly causes depression.

Experts think that the chronic pelvic pain (CPP) associated with endometriosis plays a role. This severe, ongoing pain can significantly affect a person’s everyday life. They may have to call in sick to work or school, cancel plans with friends, and withdraw from intimate relationships because of their symptoms.

As a result, their mental health can worsen.

A 2018 meta-analysis showed that among people with endometriosis, those with pelvic pain had significantly higher rates of depression.

Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition. It affects around 10–15% of females of reproductive age.

It can cause symptoms including:

Additionally, it can be difficult to diagnose. Many individuals with endometriosis consult multiple doctors before receiving a diagnosis. This leaves them living with chronic, unexplained pain for years, which can negatively affect their mental health.

People with endometriosis alongside anxiety or depression may also have lower self-esteem and a more negative body image.

This could relate to the functional limitations of their bodies. However, it can also be a result of physical changes that many people with endometriosis experience, including:

  • surgery scars
  • unintentional weight gain from hormonal therapy
  • tiredness and lethargy from heavy bleeding and anemia
  • menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, reduced libido, and vaginal dryness

Some research also indicates a link between endometriosis and changes in brain chemistry. A 2018 study in mice found that those with endometriosis had increased pain sensitivity and were more likely to have depression.

However, this link is not properly understood. Scientists need to conduct more research to understand if and why endometriosis affects brain chemistry in humans.

There is no treatment to cure endometriosis. It is a chronic, progressive condition that people can manage with medication and lifestyle interventions.

The course of treatment a doctor recommends will depend on a variety of factors, including a person’s:

Treatments for endometriosis aim to treat pain. If a person wants to have children, another aim is to prevent infertility.

Treatments for pain

People can use various methods to manage pain.

Pain medications

If a person’s pain is mild, they can use OTC medications to reduce it.

However, while they may relieve some menstrual pain, there is little evidence supporting these medications, specifically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, for managing endometriosis-related pain. In some cases, a doctor can prescribe stronger medications to help a person manage their pain.

Hormone therapy

Although endometriosis patches are outside the uterus, they go through the same hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle. A person’s hormone levels control these changes.

Doctors often use hormonal contraception to manage this. Hormonal treatments can prevent the ovaries from producing certain hormones, stopping ovulation.

Treating endometriosis with hormones slows the growth and activity of the abnormal endometrial-like tissue.

Hormone therapies include:

Surgical treatments

Some surgical treatments may provide significant relief from endometriosis-related pain. However, these treatments may only provide a short-term solution.

Surgical treatment options include:

During a laparoscopy or laparotomy, a doctor can:

  • locate endometrial-like tissue
  • examine the size of the growth of the patches
  • remove any abnormal tissue

People may need multiple surgeries over a number of years to manage their endometriosis.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend a permanent solution to pelvic pain. This involves severing the pelvic nerves. Although it can reduce pain, it is not reversible.

People must understand what happens during these procedures to make an informed decision about their reproductive health.

Treatments for infertility

The following options could help someone with endometriosis maintain or increase their fertility.

Laparoscopy

During a laparoscopy, a doctor will pass a scope through a small abdominal incision. They can then identify and remove endometrial-like tissue.

Doctors may recommend this surgery to people with mild or moderate endometriosis.

In vitro fertilization

People may also try in vitro fertilization (IVF).

IVF involves fertilizing a harvested egg with sperm to create an embryo. A healthcare professional will then implant the embryo in an individual’s uterus.

However, IVF does not work for everyone. It can also be difficult to access and prohibitively expensive.

Although endometriosis is a relatively common condition, it is still poorly understood. Many people have difficulty accessing the support they need.

Support groups are an excellent option for those with endometriosis. They provide emotional support, guidance, and knowledge from others living with the condition.

In addition, if people develop depression, a support group can help them feel less isolated.

There are numerous support groups available for those with endometriosis. The website endometriosis.org provides a comprehensive list of global support groups.

Learn more about mental health and find resources at our dedicated hub.

Endometriosis is a relatively common condition where tissues similar to the uterine lining grow elsewhere in the body. It causes chronic pelvic pain, which is associated with higher rates of depression.

Living with significant pain can increase a person’s chances of mental health problems.

Support groups are valuable sources of information and emotional support for people with endometriosis.