PCOS May Be Linked With Higher Suicide Rates, A Study Finds!

Last Update on March 21, 2024 : Published on February 13, 2024

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome more commonly known as PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects millions of women worldwide, yet its impact on our mental health is often overlooked. A recent study, conducted in Taiwan, has unearthed a startling connection between PCOS and an increased risk of suicide.

Amid discussions of irregular menstrual cycles, fertility issues, and hormonal fluctuations, this quiet yet significant aspect of PCOS remains in the shadows. As a woman diagnosed with PCOS, I can tell you that it’s not easy to talk about these struggles I have to face almost every day.

Whenever someone comments about my weight or gives me unsolicited advice on how to do more for my lifestyle, I get this urge to walk away and seclude myself on a mountain where no one (and neither their comments) can reach me. It’s more than just a little depressing to see and hear others make such light about a condition that causes me to feel uncomfortable, unmotivated, and downright anxious daily.

So, when I read this study, I felt seen in a way I couldn’t before. After reading the study, it becomes quite clear that the nuances of PCOS go beyond irregular periods, hormonal ups and downs, and weight gain. Let’s explore the unsteady terrain of PCOS, its symptoms, causes, and the sobering reality of its impact on women’s mental well-being.

PCOS and Suicide Risk: What The Study Says

PCOS, a hormonal disorder, is common among women of reproductive age. This disorder occurs when women face an imbalance of reproductive hormones, leading to issues such as irregular periods, excess hair growth, weight gain, acne, and difficulty getting pregnant. The causes of PCOS are not very well known, but it is believed that factors such as genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation can play a role.

In a recent research from Taiwan, a disturbing link between PCOS and suicide risk was found. With over 18,000 women as participants in the study, it was found that women with PCOS were 8.47 times more at risk of attempting suicide than those without the condition. In a similar adolescent subgroup, it was found that younger people with PCOS were 5 times more at risk of attempted suicide.

PCOS affects up to 10% of women and can be associated with various health conditions such as obesity, infertility, and abnormal weight gain. All these health issues can also severely impact life satisfaction levels and put women at a greater risk of psychiatric disorders.

In earlier studies centered around PCOS and suicide, it was indicated that getting a PCOS diagnosis was lined with a high risk of suicidal thoughts and non-suicidal self-harm. In another instance, in a 2016 study conducted in Sweden, researchers revealed that women diagnosed with PCOS faced a 40% increase in suicide attempts. What’s more, the study also found a parallel; siblings of women with PCOS also bore a high risk, with a 16% higher risk of experiencing suicidal behavior.

These findings emphasize the urgency of addressing the mental health implications of PCOS on women and incorporating effective healthcare strategies to mitigate the risks in young and adult women with PCOS.

PCOS And Mental Health

Furthermore, other than suicide risk, PCOS is also linked to a higher occurrence of other mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders.

In another study, it was found that women with PCOS are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to those without the disorder. These mental health challenges coupled with suicidal risks and poor lifestyle can impact a woman’s quality of life and her overall well-being.

Symptoms associated with PCOS can manifest physically, mentally, and behaviorally. Here are some common symptoms that women with PCOS might experience;

Physical symptoms:

  • Irregular periods or absence of periods
  • Heavy or prolonged bleeding during menstruation
  • Excessive growth of facial or body hair
  • Thinning hair on the scalp
  • Acne or oily skin
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Difficulty losing weight (especially around the abdomen)
  • Difficulty conceiving

Mental symptoms:

  • Frequent and sudden mood swings
  • Feelings of nervousness or anxiety
  • Experiencing symptoms of depression
  • Experiencing symptoms of persistent sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative body image
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Disordered eating patterns, such as binge eating or comfort eating
  • Increased stress
  • Experiencing feelings of overwhelm
  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns
  • Sell-harm behaviors, such as cutting, scratching, etc.

The hormonal imbalances that are associated with PCOS can also affect your neurotransmitter levels in the brain, further increasing your risk of experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress.

PCOS Management Tips

PCOS might feel unmanageable, but with the right tools, strategies, and help, you can learn to mitigate the symptoms and impact of PCOS. Here are some tips to help you;

1. Seek Help:

If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, or anxiety, or are having suicidal thoughts, then don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional. Therapy, medications, or a combination of both can help you manage your symptoms and address its potential causes.

2. Take Care of Yourself:

To mitigate the risks and impacts of PCOS on your mental health, you can engage in activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or nature walking. Taking care of your physical health with regular exercise and eating a balanced diet can help you improve your mental health too.

3. Reach Out for Support:

If you’re diagnosed with PCOS or are experiencing its symptoms, then make sure to surround yourself with supportive loved ones. Having people who encourage you and support you through your struggles can help. You can also consider joining a support group for women with PCOS and connect with others who share similar experiences.

4. Become Aware:

Most of all, try to learn as much as you can about PCOS and how to manage it effectively. Knowing what PCOS is, its symptoms, and how to manage the symptoms, can help you make better lifestyle choices and even advocate for your (and women’s health) effectively.

5. Get Enough Sleep:

Sleep and mental health are very closely associated, and to take care of your mental health means giving yourself a quality rest. Try to aim for 7–9 hours of sleep each night to support your mental and physical health. Poor sleep quality can only worsen the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, so try to make sleep one of your priorities.

Also Read: Sleep Deprivation and Anxiety: Can Lack of Sleep Cause Anxiety?

Wrapping Up…

PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is not just a physical health issue; it can have significant impacts on your mental health and well-being. The link between PCOS and suicide risk does highlight the importance of early diagnosis and care for women. When you address the physical, mental, and behavioral aspects of PCOS, you can live a happier and healthier life.

If you or your loved one is diagnosed with PCOS and its related mental health issues, remember that help is just a click away. You’re not alone in your fight!

If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, or you believe someone you know is at risk, then please immediately reach out to your local helpline number. You can also contact one of these helpline numbers:

  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
  • Crisis Text Line: text HOME to 741741
  • Trevor Lifeline: 1866-488-7386
  • Suicide Prevention India Foundation
  • https://doi.org/10.7326/M23-2240 “Suicide Attempts After a Diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome” by Mu-Hong Chen et al. Annals of Internal Medicine
  • https://neurosciencenews.com/pcos-suicide-mental-health-25565/ “PCOS Linked to Higher Suicide Risk”
  • https://www.psychiatrist.com/news/new-study-reinforces-pcos-suicide-connection/ “New Study Reinforces PCOS-Suicide Connection”

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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