What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder affecting 5-10% of women. Its symptoms start arising around puberty and can be seen in adolescence through acne, weight gain and excessive hair growth; in adulthood through irregular menses and infertility; and in late reproductive age through the appearance of the menstrual cycle again.
Physiologically speaking, there is excessive androgen and testosterone found in the body and small follicular cysts on the ovaries. There is no definite cause of PCOS, but potential causes include excess insulin, genetics, hormonal imbalance and mainly stress. It cannot be cured, but through the years, research has suggested various ways of managing and initiating preventive therapy in order to avoid its long-term complications such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and endometrial cancer.
Despite its consequences, and although plenty of research has been made towards its advances in treatment, lesser importance has been given to its impact on the quality of life, psychological and psychosocial issues.
What happens to women who have it?
The symptoms of PCOS target many areas of womanhood. Acne, excessive hair growth, skin tags, dark patches of skin and obesity can target her sense of attraction and beauty, challenging her confidence and making her anxious or even hostile, while irregular menses and infertility targets and questions her femininity and aspect of motherhood. This emotional distress if not processed well can cause somatic symptoms i.e. emotional distress that shows through physical symptoms and even interpersonal sensitivity.
Anger is another common reaction, not only because women have to face this condition, but also due to the delayed diagnosis. Often times, women are not diagnosed easily and therefore have to suffer for a long time before actually recognizing the condition.
Therefore, although stress may cause PCOS, the whole process is also quite stressful causing a vicious cycle between the two. It therefore is no surprise that many women suffering from PCOS also suffer from anxiety, depression and even eating disorders.
What can you do?
It is extremely important to educate yourself regarding PCOS so that you are aware of the effect on your body and can take control over it. This awareness will also help you accept your condition further and help you process your emotions.
It is important to distinguish how severe your emotional challenges are. Sometimes we may need support to help us continue being positive and move forward, while other times, we need more help for our depressive and anxious symptoms, as it can get difficult to even manage ourselves through the day. Seeking professional help, where the therapist or doctor can educate you about this condition and the symptoms, can make you work towards building healthy and effective coping mechanisms.
Don’t isolate yourself if you have PCOD. Continue meeting friends and family. Continue going to work. There is no need to treat yourself as a patient.
Research has also recommended regular physical exercise. When we exercise, our body naturally releases chemicals in our brain that automatically helps us feel better.
Overall, we need to be willing to ask help whenever we need but at the same time have to make active efforts to help ourselves as well.
In conclusion, it can be seen that PCOS has an impact on our body, physiologically and psychologically. The whole process can be extremely stressful as well and therefore it is important to get a proper diagnosis, educate ourselves and try receiving and providing ourselves the proper support and care we need. If not taken seriously, it can result in depression, anxiety and other conditions, which are far more complex and take longer for treatment.
By Ishita Pateria