Mental Illness + PCOS

Stigma surrounds mental illness. It prevents people from speaking openly about their mental health, seeking treatment and living their full lives.

This stigma falsely tells the world that mental illness is a secret that should be shamefully swept under the rug. 

In response to society’s stigma around mental health, I would like to quote the great Dr. Brene Brown:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

There are many parallels between PCOS and mental illness. There’s shame and secrecy around both PCOS and mental illnesses. Both cause people to feel the need to defend the legitimacy of their experiences. So much effort is spent trying to explain your experience you may even begin the question the validity of your own perception. This may also be the case for the many people that experience PCOS and a mental illness.

You may be surprised to learn that mood disorders are very common in people with PCOS. People with PCOS are likely to experience:

  • Higher likelihood of having anxiety and depression
  • High rates of bipolar disorder
  • Increase likelihood of binge eating and having food cravings
  • Increased rates of disordered eating
  • Problems related to compulsivity, somatization, obsessive compulsiveness, interpersonal sensitivity, and hostility
  • Overlooked diagnosis for depression

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

Grab a FREE download from Julie here.

Why do people with PCOS experience increased rates of mood disorders and other mental illnesses? 

The cause is unknown. Many researchers suggest the causes are actual PCOS symptoms. They argue that facing infertility, menstrual irregularities, and other PCOS symptoms may cause psychological disturbances. Other research suggests that the problem is in the hypothalamus-a part of your brain that regulates moods and has a central role in PCOS.

Although the exact cause is unknown, research suggests people with PCOS are more likely to experience some sort of mental illness.

If you have PCOS and suspect you may also experience a mental illness, don’t let the stigma around mental health stop you from getting help. Keep in mind your relationship with food and body may need extra attention.

To help manage my mental health, I try to avoid content that promotes unhealthy relationships with food. I manage my anxiety with meditation, somatic experiencing, guided imageries, listening to music, and lots of self-compassion.

By seeking treatment, voicing our concerns, and openly discussing mental illness, we are fighting back against the stigma.

Want a deeper dive into non diet approaches to your PCOS that promote health and healing? Click here for details.

 

References

Balen, A. (n.d.). Polycystic Ovary Versus Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Contemporary 

Endocrinology Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, 37-49. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-108-6_4

Blay, S. L., Aguiar, J., & Passos, I. C. (2016). Polycystic ovary syndrome and mental

disorders: a systematic review and exploratory meta-analysis. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Volume 12, 2895-2903. doi:10.2147/ndt.s91700

Dokras, A. (2012). Mood and anxiety disorders in women with PCOS. Steroids, 77(4),

338-341. doi:10.1016/j.steroids.2011.12.008

Mccook, J. G., Bailey, B. A., Williams, S. L., Anand, S., & Reame, N. E. (2014).

Differential Contributions of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Manifestations to Psychological Symptoms. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 42(3), 383-394. doi:10.1007/s11414-013-9382-7

Morosi, A., & Jeanes, Y. (2017). Food cravings, binge eating and emotional eating

behaviours in overweight and obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society,76(OCE1). doi:10.1017/s0029665117000155

Podfigurna-Stopa, A., Luisi, S., Regini, C., Katulski, K., Centini, G., Meczekalski, B., &

Petraglia, F. (2015). Mood disorders and quality of life in polycystic ovary syndrome. Gynecological Endocrinology, 31(6). doi:10.3109/09513590.2015.1009437

Rassi, A., Veras, A. B., Reis, M. D., Pastore, D. L., Bruno, L. M., Bruno, R. V., . . . Nardi, A.

E. (2010). Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Comprehensive Psychiatry,51(6), 599-602. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2010.02.009

PCOS + Stress

This article was written by my previous Nutrition Grad Student, Kimmie Singh. She is a fat woman of color who experiences PCOS. You can find out more information about her work now as a dietitian here.

Who isn’t stressed? Everyone has their fair share of worries and concerns, and people with PCOS are no exception. PCOS is definitely a cause of some of my stress. 

One thing that stresses me out is all of the co-morbidities that are associated with PCOS:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • depression
  • cardiovascular disease
  • and the list goes on.

There’s hope: reducing your stress can help reduce your risk of developing many PCOS-related co-morbidities. It can also help you manage your PCOS.

The majority of people with PCOS have insulin resistance (more on that here), making their cells less sensitive to insulin causing a reduced ability for cells to take up glucose. Stress actually intensifies insulin resistance. Your body responds to stress by increasing your blood glucose level and releasing hormones that make the cells even less sensitive to insulin, so less glucose can enter the cells.

Everyone’s body has a natural reaction to stress. People with PCOS have stronger physical responses to stress compared to people without PCOS. This stronger response to stress increases the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Want to find a way to treat your PCOS without dieting?

Grab a FREE download from Julie here.

Managing stress is important for everyone’s health, and it’s really important for people with PCOS. 

I know how stressful PCOS is. I know how serious it is, and how overwhelming it can be, but you only have one body.

If your body has PCOS, it’s not any less valuable.

It’s different.

It has different needs, and helping your body meet those needs can make managing your PCOS a less stressful process.

Mindfulness activities are proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and even improve the quality of life among people with PCOS. I want to share my favorite stress-reliving activities with you. Take these tips with a grain of salt, and if they appeal to you, I encourage you to trust your instincts and try to be mindful about the process.

My top 5 stress relieving practices are:

  • Laughter- Everyone who knows me knows that I love a good joke, and on a stressful day I always find humor to be a reliable source of de-stressing.
  • Yoga helps me clear my mind and bring me back down to earth. It also helps me feel super connected to my body and leaves me with a compassionate attitude toward my PCOS. A good yoga session always brings me to a peaceful mental space. One to try: Curvy Yoga with Anna Guest-Jelly.
  • Social support helps me in more ways that I can describe. If you haven’t joined our Facebook group yet, I invite you to join us. We would love to have you.
  • Nature- I can’t lie, I have a love-hate relationship with nature. I’m not a fan of bugs or humidity, and, unfortunately, North Carolina has ample amounts of both. However, nature still has a magical effect that makes me feel grounded and mindful.
  • Meditation- there are so many types of meditation, and if you are new to meditation, I recommend started with a guided audio meditation. Insight Timer is one of Julie’s favorites and recommends their Yoga Nidra Sleep Meditation. Meditation can feel awkward at first, and after a couple minutes I usually feel a strong calming presence throughout my body.

Want to explore more non diet options to help manage your PCOS, promote health AND healing?

Click here for details on Julie’s PCOS and Food Peace course.

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Resources:

Benson, S., Arck, P., Tan, S., Hahn, S., Mann, K., Rifaie, N., . . . Elsenbruch, S. (2009). Disturbed stress responses in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(5), 727-735. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.12.001

Blood Sugar & Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://dtc.ucsf.edu/types-of-diabetes/type2/understanding-type-2-diabetes/how-the-body-processes-sugar/blood-sugar-stress/

Pasquali, R., & Gambineri, A. (2012). Mechanisms and Treatment of Obesity in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Contemporary Endocrinology Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, 217-240. doi:10.1007/978-1-59745-108-6_14

Stefanaki, C., Bacopoulou, F., Livadas, S., Kandaraki, A., Karachalios, A., Chrousos, G. P., & Diamanti-Kandarakis, E. (2014). Impact of a mindfulness stress management program on stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. Stress,18(1), 57-66. doi:10.3109/10253890.2014.974030