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PCOS and Mental Health

Everyone is unique, the same way every women will have a unique relationship with their Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This is something that is often overlooked. PCOS is a condition affecting the ovaries function. If someone is familiar with PCOS they will often assume irregular periods mean that you don’t bleed, or you only have a few periods a year, or that you are infertile and so on. My point is that you could be underweight and have a continuous period for two months straight or you could be overweight with two periods a year. Conditions such as Hypothyroidism have also shown to worsen PCOS.  Pixabay  

Here are some basic facts about the Syndrome:

1. To be diagnosed with PCOS, you will have two from the three following symptoms: irregular periods, high levels of male hormones and polycystic ovaries.  

2. The level of hormones are tested through regular blood tests and your ovaries are tested through an Ultrasound.

3. PCOS affects 1 in 10 women and is more likely if your mum or sister has the condition (NHS, 2020).

 

Could you have PCOS? Below I have included the key symptoms of PCOS taken from the NHS website:

  • Irregular periods (as mentioned above)
  • Acne
  • Excess hair on the face, chest and back
  • Hair loss from the head
  • Changes in mood
  • Weight gain

After conducting interviews with two women and asking them about their PCOS experience, respondent one answered "My family was completely unaware of what PCOS was as no one had been affected by it in the family, so I didn’t know how bad it could get”.  This suggests it can be difficult to understand, and even more difficult to manage. According to an Instagram post from @the.pcos.nutritionist, a qualified nutritionist, ‘over 80% of women with PCOS say their doctor didn’t do enough to help with PCOS management’. Respondent two answered "I was placed on the pill and if the pill didn’t work for me I would be placed on a different pill, which made me put weight on and break out’. Depression is a side effect of the pill, therefore we can argue that to maintain the health of our physical bodies, there is sometimes a trade off between physical and mental wellbeing (McDermott, 2018). The effects of PCOS on a person's mental health are often ignored. Considering that our hormones are all over the place with PCOS, we are bound to have bad days and fluctuations in mood which can result in depression. Mental health can also be affected by excess facial hair, acne, fatigue and being overweight. Many women can find hair removal extremely stressful, particularly when dealing with excess hair. Women and their view of body hair can also vary depending on their background. Asian women feel ashamed of body hair and social media further contributes to the relationship between woman and body hair (Momi, 2020). Hair can be removed by shaving, hair removal creams, waxing and laser. Laser hair removal can be covered through the NHS but it is not guaranteed, and private laser clinics are often expensive and do not guarantee long lasting results. There are also medicines available for women dealing with excess hair. For more information on women and body hair, check out the article Desi Women And Their Relationship With Body Hair on Desiblitz.

From my own experience with acne, I know that dermotoligists will prescribe antibiotics, as well as a pill to control hormone imbalance for PCOS realted acne. As a last resort, they will provide Accutane, which can increase your chances of liver disease, therefore it is closely monitored through monthly blood tests. However, Accutane can result in extreme dryness of the skin as it works by stopping the body's oil production and it does not target scarring. The skin then needs at least 6 months to completely recover, before undergoing any potential laser treatments you may want, such as hair removal laser treatment. Most women who are diagnosed with PCOS are diagnosed in their early 20's or late teens. This suggests that most women are only just building their careers; they may be at university, or still at school or they could be working. Laser treatments are expensive and as Accutane does not treat scars, many women with PCOS and acne are likely to suffer from insecurities related to their appearance. I took Accutane for my 'bacne' where the majotity of my acne was and although it works for the majority of people, it didnt work for me. It did stop my body producing oil, but it also left my spots there as bumps on my skin that wouldnt go away. After seeing many different demotologists, they recommened I get them surgically removed, in other words get them cut off. I just decided to cover them. I was insecure of my acne scars and these bumps which were on my skin, and I would always wear a full coverage foundation to cover blemishes outside my house. As I became older and started loving myself, I stopped caring how people saw my acne, but it wasn't always like this, and I can still have bad days.

Many women have reported having a period for several months, which severely impacts their mental health through chronic fatigue. Women with PCOS are often anemic as they may lose high levels of blood, resulting in low energy and fatigue which can affect your ability to perform daily tasks and work performance. It can also cause a lot of stress for women who are trying for children due to fertility issues.  

Overall, the different symptoms of PCOS interlink; irregular bleeding, acne, weight and excess hair can result in mental health issues such as insecurites, anxiety and even depression. Depression is made worse by the pill which is a doctors 'go to' medication for PCOS due to its ability to regulate hormones. 

 

References

McDermott, A., 2018. Birth Control And Depression: Understanding The Link. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control/birth-control-and-depres...

Momi, S., 2020. Desi Women And Their Relationship With Body Hai. [online] Desiblitz.com. Available at: <https://www.desiblitz.com/content/desi-women-and-their-relationship-with...

NHS. 2019. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. [online] Available at: <https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/>