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PCOS and Mental Health

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

When I saw the movie Padman, my hopes took flight. I thought “Here we are! We are talking about menstruation openly. We are going to address the challenges faced by women during their menstrual cycle, not just in terms of personal hygiene but also about social stigma and stereotypes associated with it.“ But l never knew that there are many more things that need to come to light.

One day, my friend was telling me how her mood swings are giving her a tough time during lockdown; and how the whole “PCOS thingy” is making life even more difficult with irregular periods. I wondered if there was any connection between PCOS and mood swings. She wasn’t aware of it. I too was clueless about PCOS. That's when I started reading about it and realised that PCOS is not something which can be ignored.

PCOS is known as PolyCystic Ovaries Syndrome. It is one of the most common reasons for infertility in women and yet it is not diagnosed on time. It is a problem associated with an excessive production of male hormones and is characterised by multiple immature follicles in enlarged ovaries.

What caught my attention was the psychological consequences of PCOS. Lack of awareness about this disorder, makes it difficult to understand the toll it takes on the emotional and mental well-being of the women suffering from it.

There is an evidence which suggests that women suffering from PCOS also suffer from depression and anxiety. Further, research also indicates presence of Bipolar disorder alongside PCOS which results in intermittent episodes of depression and excitement (mania).

It has also been found that women may suffer from inferiority complex, issues related to body image and eating habits. It results into low self esteem and self blame. Women may have trouble in interpersonal relationships as an outcome of the psychological consequences of PCOS.

It becomes difficult for women suffering from PCOS to deal with so many challenges simultaneously because PCOS is a chronic condition which cannot be completely cured. Management of its symptoms along with their consequences requires mental strength and strong empathic social support.

The challenging part about PCOS is a lack of awareness about it and stigma attached to menstruation in India. Women have to handle difficulties related to periods and pregnancy, manage their emotions, deal with the changes in their body and appearance, without knowing sufficiently about the medical reason underlying these difficulties.

When I read all of this, I wondered, how the women must have been dealing with it without sufficient knowledge about this condition? How would it be for men whose partners suffer from PCOS and who do not have sufficient information about menstruation (PCOS doesn’t even come into the picture)? How it would have been for a couple to deal with the above psychological consequences and yet have a healthy relationship?

As a mental health professional, I found it important to bring the attention to this issue and hence I ended up writing this blog. In the following articles, we will be exploring how we can effectively deal with the psychological consequences of PCOS. We will also look at how we can provide support to someone who is dealing with PCOS.

Till then, please remember to be supportive to each other in the face of challenges presented by life.

by Surabhi Pawar

She is a psychotherapist and a child psychologist. She works majorly with children having ADHD, Learning Disabilities, low self - esteem, social anxiety. Her sessions are a blend of behavioural and humanistic approaches. She also makes use of techniques from Art therapy and Play therapy for children. She strongly believes in the effectiveness of mindfulness in daily life. She aims to take Psychology to the grass root level population and remove the stigma attached to therapy and counselling. Apart from working in the field of mental health, she enjoys origami, photography and creative writing.

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