Can Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Cause Depression?


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Many women with PCOS often experience depression, anxiety and other mood-related disorders. A question that often arises is whether depression and anxiety are a result of having the symptoms of PCOS or whether they are caused by the hormone imbalance related to PCOS.

A study conducted at the University of Chicago Hospital Department of Medicine linked slightly elevated free testosterone (FT) levels with increased rates of mood-related disorders. The study looked at 27 women with PCOS and elevated FT levels and 27 women without PCOS and normal ranges of FT levels.

The results of the study show that women with slightly elevated levels of FT were more likely to be depressed than women with normal or very elevated levels of FT. This is a rather interesting finding because it showed how FT can have a negative effect on mood at slightly elevated levels but not have much of an effect at extremely elevated levels. One thought was that women with extremely elevated levels of FT become accustomed to the high levels and their bodies adjust accordingly. (1)

The study advises physicians to be aware that depression may be a symptom of the hormone imbalance found in women with PCOS. Treatments aimed at treating the cause of PCOS and balancing hormone levels may help many women relieve their depression and anxiety along with other symptoms of PCOS, which can range from infertility and excess facial hair to skin conditions like acne and brown patches and male pattern baldness.

(1) Weiner CL, Primeau M, Ehrmann DA. Androgens and mood dysfunction in women: comparison of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome to healthy controls. Psychosom Med. 2004 May-Jun;66(3):356-62. PMID: 15184695

Dr. Shackelton is a founding partner of Insulite Laboratories. She directs research and development of the formulas comprising the four Insulite Systems and those in development. Her study of the biochemical and physiological reasons for weight gain led to her focus on Insulin Resistance – the abnormal response of insulin to glucose - and its growing number of related conditions.


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