PCOS and Depression: An Overview

depressed woman
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Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, are more likely to develop depression or depressive symptoms. In fact, some experts estimate almost half of all women with PCOS also have depression.

Depression is a severe mood disorder which may or may not affect the way that people function in their daily life. It’s not simply being sad, or “down in the dumps.” People cannot simply “pull themselves out of it,” and usually require help in the form of psychotherapy or medication.

In women with PCOS, research suggests a biochemical connection between abnormal levels of androgen and other hormones and mood disorders. In addition, there are psychological and metabolic effects of obesity that may be at play in women with PCOS.

What's more, many of the conditions associated with PCOS, including infertility, acne and unwanted facial hair, can be difficult to deal with and may result in depression for some women.

Types of Depression

There are a few main types of depression that can impact women with PCOS.

Major Depressive Disorder: Characterized by an inability to function in their daily lives, sufferers often have many symptoms that may last weeks to months. Approximately 5% of the population is dealing with depression at a given moment.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, although men are less likely to get help. It may occur as an isolated depression stemming from a major event such as a death, or there may be many recurrences over the sufferer’s lifespan.

Dysthymia: Usually less severe, dysthymia tends to be a more chronic form of depression which lasts for a longer time. Patients usually experience similar, though less intense symptoms.

Sufferers may also have a major depression at the same time, what is known as double depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: This is a depression which occurs at the same time each year.

It typically begins in the fall or early winter, and ends by spring.

Prevalence increases where seasonal changes become more extreme, causing theorists to hypothesize that amount of sunlight exposure may contribute to the disorder. Extreme fatigue, lack of energy and fatigue are typically experienced.

What Causes Depression?

Depression is a complex disorder, in which several factors may contribute to the disease. Experiencing many stressors at once (such as financial problems, death or illness of a loved one, one’s own illness, moving or job loss), certain medications, and even positive life changes, (getting married, having a baby or starting a new school) can all trigger a depression.

There is some evidence that there may be a genetic component involved; however, that alone does not cause depression. Frequently, it is a combination of genetic and environmental issues that initiate the depression.

What are the Symptoms of Depression?

Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Change in eating
  • Sleeping more then usual
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities previously enjoyed
  • Persistently feeling down or sad
  • Loneliness
  • Weight changes – gain or loss
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Inability or difficulty in making decisions
  • Physical pains such as neck/backache, headache, digestive issues

A diagnosis of depression is usually made when someone has a depressed mood in addition to many of the symptoms listed above.

How is Depression Treated?

There are many forms of psychotherapy, or “talk” therapy, out there which depend on the theory of psychology the practitioner uses.

Finding someone to talk to can be helpful in dealing with difficult or painful feelings. It is also helpful in changing the negative thinking patterns that are common in depression.

Medication may also be an option that you consider with your doctor. Many types of antidepressants are on the market, so it may take a little time before you find one that works for you.

It is important to take the medication exactly as prescribed, and make sure to discuss anything else you are taking with your doctor. The medication may take several weeks to be effective, so give it a little time to work. Even if you are feeling better, do not abruptly stop taking the medication, as some require the dosage to be tapered down.

Getting Help

If you or someone you know may be depressed, there are a number of places to get help. Mention what you are feeling to your doctor, or make an appointment with a psychologist or counselor. If you are unsure where to find someone, check your local yellow pages, or ask a local health clinic for a referral.

Sources:

Are there disorders or conditions associated with PCOS? National Institutes of Health website. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/PCOS/conditioninfo/Pages/conditions-associated.aspx#mood. Updated March 23, 2013. Accessed January 24, 2016.

Depression. Medline Plus website. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003213.htm. Updated December 20, 2014. Accessed January 24, 2016.

Depression. National Institute of Mental Health website. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Accessed January 24, 2016.

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