Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) carries substantial implications for mental health, encompassing emotional distress, heightened vulnerability to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as body image-related concerns. This underscores the critical need for a holistic, psychologically-informed framework in providing care and support to individuals dealing with PCOS. If you’re in Melbourne and seeking support with a psychologist with an understanding of PCOS, you’re in the right place.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. There are three main features of PCOS, whereby 2 or more of these features may result in a diagnosis of PCOS. These include:
How PCOS may impact daily life:
PCOS has been found to be a common cause of female infertility, therefore resulting in increased levels of stress and anxiety for the women and their partners. Many women discover they have PCOS when trying to fall pregnant and are unsuccessful.
During each menstrual cycle, the ovaries release an egg (ovum) into the uterus (womb). This process is called ovulation and usually occurs once a month. Research has shown that women with PCOS often do not ovulate or perhaps ovulate infrequently, which means they have irregular or absent periods. Due to the infrequent ovulation, women with PCOS find it difficult to fall pregnant.
The symptoms of PCOS usually occur in the late teens or early 20s, which is also a very vulnerable age for young women. Women with PCOS have often been found to experience severe symptoms of depression and anxiety, however, this is often overlooked, undiagnosed and, unfortunately untreated. It is evident that symptoms of PCOS, often including excess hair growth, hair loss, weight changes and fertility problems, and acne, negatively affect the individual’s mood, self-confidence, and body image.
What are the common signs and symptoms of PCOS:
The symptom onset of PCOS is usually in the late teens or early 20s. It is also important to note that not all women with PCOS will experience all the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe. Some women only experience menstrual problems or are unable to conceive, or both. These may include:
What causes polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS?
Women who have a mother, aunt, or sister with PCOS are shown to be 50% more likely to develop PCOS. The cause is not fully understood, however, family history and genetics, hormones, and lifestyle play a role. Insulin resistance is present in up to four out of five women with PCOS.
Research-wise, what is known is that PCOS is related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including high insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that controls the sugar levels in our body. The higher levels of insulin are produced to contribute to the increased production and activity of hormones like testosterone. Falling within the overweight or obese range has also been found to increase the amount of insulin the body produces.
How to treat PCOS?
Whilst we are not entirely sure about the exact cause of PCOS, one of the main symptom management strategies is a healthy lifestyle. This may involve eating a nutritious diet, being active, and maintaining a healthy weight. There will be a significant difficulty in actioning these basic known management strategies when the women are experiencing reduced or poor mental health, such as depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety often result in withdrawal and decreased motivation for behavioural activation. Therefore an active and healthy life is a real struggle.
What professionals provide support for PCOS?
At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we find that a team of health professionals adopting a multidisciplinary approach is the best way to manage and treat PCOS. A healthcare team to help manage polycystic ovary syndrome may include:
What is the first step of exploring a diagnosis of PCOS?
Early diagnosis is important to manage symptoms and may prevent long-term health problems such as diabetes from developing. Medical treatment and diagnosis of PCOS start with your GP. Your GP and specialists can discuss possible treatments with you to help you decide what treatment best suits you. The diagnosis process will likely involve your GP exploring the following:
At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, our experienced Melbourne psychologists have a special interest in women health including PCOS, body image and supporting individuals through fertility issues using evidence-based approaches.
Our psychologists adopt a collaborative approach and provide comprehensive and tailored care for managing anxiety and distress in PCOS. This approach has proven effective in treating PCOS and fostering hope and confidence in your journey.
At Positive Wellbeing Psychology, we offer flexible appointments with our psychologists during the day, evening, or weekends, both in-person at our Melbourne psychology practice or online via telehealth.
Our team of psychologists hold full registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and adhere to ethical guidelines as mandated by the Psychologists Registration Board and Australian Psychological Society. Our clinical practice is grounded in evidence-based treatment approaches, ensuring comprehensive support for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), body image, and fertility issues.