Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Studies say that anywhere from to around 50 percent of women with PCOS report being depressed, compared to of women without PCOS.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why depression and PCOS often occur together. However, there are several research-supported hypotheses as to why this is the case.

Insulin resistance

Approximately 70 percent of women with PCOS are insulin-resistant, which means their cells don’t take in glucose the way they should. This can lead to elevated blood sugar.

Insulin resistance is also associated with depression, although it isn’t clear why. One theory is that insulin resistance changes how the body makes certain hormones that can lead to prolonged stress and depression.

Stress

PCOS itself is known to cause stress, particularly over the physical symptoms of the condition, such as excessive facial and body hair.

This stress can lead to anxiety and depression. It’s more likely to affect younger women with PCOS.

Inflammation

PCOS is also associated with inflammation throughout the body. Prolonged inflammation is associated with high cortisol levels, which increases stress and depression.

High cortisol also increases the risk of insulin resistance, which in turn can cause depression.

Obesity

Women with PCOS are more likely to be obese than women without PCOS.

Obesity is associated with depression, regardless of whether or not it’s related to PCOS. However, this likely has a small effect on the association between depression and PCOS.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that often first shows symptoms around puberty. Symptoms include:

symptoms of PCOS

The cause of PCOS is unknown, but potential causes include:

  • excess insulin
  • low-grade inflammation
  • genetics
  • your ovaries naturally producing high levels of androgen

The most common treatments are lifestyle changes — generally with the goal of losing weight — and medications to address specific issues, such as to regulate your menstrual cycle.

If you have depression and PCOS, your doctor will likely treat your depression by treating the specific underlying cause.

For example, if you’re insulin-resistant, you might try a low-carb diet. If you’re obese, you can make lifestyle changes to lose weight.

If you have a hormonal imbalance, including excess androgen, birth control pills may be prescribed to help correct it.

Other treatments may include treatment for depression itself. Talk therapy, or counseling, is considered one of the most effective treatments for depression. Types of therapy you might try include:

therapy options
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps identify and change negative thinking patterns and teaches you coping strategies. This is the most common type of therapy.
  • Interpersonal therapy focuses on improving problems in personal relationships.
  • Psychodynamic therapy is based in recognizing and understanding negative patterns of behavior that come from past experiences, and working to resolve them.
  • Support groups give you a chance to meet others in your situation and talk through your issues together.

Antidepressants are another standard treatment for depression. However, some antidepressants can cause weight gain and potentially impact blood glucose.

For this reason, antidepressants may not be used as a first-line depression treatment for women with PCOS. If they’re necessary, you may need to try several different kinds to figure out what works best for you.

For women with PCOS and depression, there may be a cycle of depression symptoms and PCOS symptoms. For example, depression can cause weight gain, which can make PCOS worse. This, in turn, can worsen depression.

People who are depressed are also at a higher risk of dying by suicide. If you feel suicidal, or are otherwise in crisis, reach out.

If you need someone to talk to, you can call a hotline staffed with people who are trained to listen and help you.

here to help now

These hotlines are anonymous and confidential:

  • NAMI (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.): 1-800-950-NAMI. You can also text NAMI to 741741 to find help in a crisis.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (open 24/7): 1-800-273-8255
  • Samaritans 24 Hour Crisis Hotline (open 24/7): 212-673-3000
  • United Way Helpline (which can help you find a therapist, healthcare, or basic necessities): 1-800-233-4357

You can also call your mental health provider. They can see you or direct you to the appropriate place. Calling a friend or family member to come be with you can also be helpful.

If you have a plan to kill yourself, this is considered a medical emergency, and you should call 911 immediately.

If you have PCOS and depression, getting help for both conditions is important.

Talk to your doctor about potential treatments for PCOS, including birth control pills, medications that block androgen, medications that help you ovulate, and lifestyle changes.

Treating your PCOS can help reduce your depression.

An excellent way to treat your depression is to find a mental health provider you can talk to and who can prescribe medication if necessary.

Many local hospitals, community health centers, and other health offices provide mental health services. NAMI, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the American Psychological Association have tips for finding a mental health provider in your area.

You can also try to find a support group in your area. Many hospitals and nonprofits also offer support groups for depression and anxiety. Some may even have PCOS support groups.

Online support groups or providers are also good options if you can’t find any in your area.

PCOS and depression often go together. With treatment, you can greatly reduce symptoms of both conditions.

Talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you. This may include medications and lifestyle changes for both PCOS and depression, and talk therapy for depression.