Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a group of symptoms that can impact females during their reproductive years. People with PCOS may be more likely to develop depression and anxiety.
Most people with PCOS experience at least two symptoms, such as having high levels of androgen hormone, irregular menstruation cycles, or atypical growths on one or both ovaries.
The condition can have a major impact on the person’s life and may affect their mood or general well-being.
This article discusses the relationship between PCOS and depression, including how PCOS may cause depression, how to treat PCOS-related depression, and where to get support.
A note about sex and gender
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.
Scientists are unsure precisely how PCOS increases the risk of depression.
Also, around 50% of people with PCOS experience anxiety, compared with approximately 39% of people who do not have PCOS.
The link between PCOS and depression remains unclear. Yet several research-supported theories may help explain how PCOS can increase the risk of experiencing depression.
Some of the most established theories regarding the link between PCOS and depression include the following:
According to the
Being insulin-resistant increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. By some estimates,
Experts have not fully established the association between insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and depression. However, having insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes likely increases the risk of developing depression.
PCOS is an inflammatory condition. Research also notes that depression may lead to an increase in inflammation in the body.
Inflammation has an association with many other conditions, such as stress and obesity.
Also, stress can trigger the release of cytokines, which are substances that cause the body to produce more inflammation.
Other factors linked to obesity in PCOS, such as the overproduction of cortisol or self-perception, may contribute to developing depression.
Another factor to consider is the stigma around obesity, which
Increased levels of inflammation in people with PCOS and obesity can link to depression too. More research to determine the link between obesity and depression would be beneficial.
Sleep apnea can cause a low-grade inflammatory condition in the body and
Infertility can lead to the atypical secretion of hormones, neuropeptides, or cytokines, which may contribute to depression in PCOS.
Depression may also develop because infertility can
- feelings of isolation
- feelings of failure
- questions of self-worth
Changes in physical appearance
Symptoms that medical professionals typically associate with PCOS may
- excessive body hair
- dark skin patches
These changes to physical appearance can result in feelings of low self-esteem and poor self-image.
The best treatment option for people with PCOS and depression depends on the underlying cause.
If depression relates to insulin resistance, obesity, or type 2 diabetes, certain lifestyle changes can help a person better manage these conditions. Some measures include:
- eating a low-carbohydrate diet
- losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
- exercising to help treat some symptoms
- taking certain medications — such as insulin-sensitizing medications — to treat insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
If hormonal imbalance is causing depression, taking birth control pills may be beneficial. These medications can help manage or reduce symptoms of PCOS and regulate menstruation cycles.
People with PCOS who experience severe or chronic stress may find it helpful to learn ways to manage their stress. For example, using relaxation techniques or yoga. This can help alleviate some depressive symptoms.
If depression stems from emotions surrounding infertility, treatments
Using a continuous positive airway pressure machine
What about antidepressants?
Doctors may prescribe antidepressant medications that help manage depression.
However, taking antidepressants
If symptoms of depression occur frequently or for at least two weeks, a person should talk with a doctor as soon as possible.
Signs of depression
- aches, pain, or digestive problems with no clear underlying cause
- cognitive problems, such as trouble focusing, remembering things, or making decisions
- feeling continuously sad, anxious, guilty, helpless, or hopeless
- irritability or restlessness
- loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- reduced energy and unexplained fatigue
- trouble sleeping or oversleeping
- thoughts of death or suicide
A family doctor or healthcare professional can help people with depression access the care they need.
In the U.S., someone can also find local treatment services by contacting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
If someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or considering suicide, call 911, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or text “HELLO” to 741741.
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and resources on mental health and well-being.
People with PCOS are more likely to develop depression. Although the precise relationship between depression and PCOS remains unclear, several factors may be involved, including:
- insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
- sleep apnea
- changes to physical appearance
People with PCOS who experience symptoms of depression can get support and treatment by talking with a healthcare professional or reaching out to national mental health services.