PCOS & Anxiety (with special guest blogger Anne Poirier)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is the most commonly diagnosed endocrine issue in women of childbearing age (15-44)—between seven and ten percent of women develop this condition, which is an imbalance of reproductive hormones (e.g., estrogen and progesterone). Because of this imbalance, the ovaries do not function effectively, thereby creating irregular menstruation and fertility issues as well as the growth of cysts.
Typical markers of PCOS include:
- the development of acne on the face, back, neck and chest
- the growth of facial hair
- thinning or loss of hair on the scalp
- the appearance of skin tags and dark patches
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- elevated cholesterol
- sleep disturbances
While the precise cause of PCOS is unknown, the medical community believes genetics, higher levels of the male hormone androgen, and the presence of high levels of insulin are contributing factors. In fact, many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
One of the principal symptoms of PCOS is the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. A January 2017 study found that women diagnosed with PCOS are three times as likely to report anxiety symptoms compared to women without PCOS. The numbers were similar for depression. This strong correlation makes sense—not only do PCOS sufferers have hormonal imbalances (which are known causes of mood disorders), but they also have to deal with the stress of body image anxiety resulting from physical changes (such as weight gain and facial hair) that accompany PCOS. And while there are medications (hormones) that are used in the treatment of PCOS, there is no easy fix for this condition.
Here’s where Anne Poirier, BS CSCS CIEC comes in. A health and fitness specialist (and a friend of the Anxiety Sisters), Anne is the founder of Shaping Perspectives, a wellness program located in beautiful coastal Maine designed to educate and support women so they can live mindfully and joyfully in their bodies. Anne was one of the professionals who helped Abs recover from her eating disorder (and accompanying anxiety) so we know firsthand how wise, caring and loving Annie is!
Anne is hosting a retreat specifically for women dealing with PCOS and other metabolic conditions May 18-20. Here is Anne in her own words:
A beautiful woman with long dark black hair and a 10-month old in tow sat in front of me asking with tears in her eyes to help her lose weight. “I can’t take it anymore! My anxiety is at an all-time high and I am just getting more and more depressed every day,” she sobbed.
We began working together, but with no real results. She tried everything I suggested but was still sleep deprived, panicky and stressed out all the time. It was then that I asked her to visit her doctor and get a full panel of blood tests done. The results revealed a lot: her hormone levels such as FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and androgens were way off the normal mark. Her diagnosis? PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome)
I began to research and further my own education on PCOS, stress and anxiety, disordered eating, and body image because I saw first-hand the amount of stress, pressure and poor self-esteem that Karen was experiencing. This was way beyond a weight issue! In order to attack her diagnosis and symptoms from all angles, I became a Certified Intuitive Eating Coach, Yoga Nidra and meditation guide, self-care, self-talk and body image specialist. Karen was no longer just a client—she had become a friend—and I wasn’t going to stop until I found a way to help her manage both her PCOS and anxiety.
This experience with Karen led me to develop a comprehensive program to specifically address her symptoms–a five-part program that was not geared toward weight loss, as her physicians continued to recommend to her, but one focused on reducing stress through balance, function and joy.
By following my program, Karen was able to accept her PCOS symptoms which have become much more manageable. Not only is she surviving, she’s thriving. She is happier and has significantly reduced her stress and anxiety and now has the skills and tools to handle both when they show up in her life.
Because of Karen and our continuing journey together, I am offering a very special weekend for women suffering from PCOS and other metabolic Issues. If you have PCOS, please consider joining me at my live event in Maine. Space is limited to 8.
Click here for more information on this life-changing weekend.
I lost my mum suddenly 4 half years ago. I was at work and got a call from my Dad, stating he couldn’t wake her up that morning. My mum had got a virus we thought, and the doctor was due to call an hour after my mum died. Mum had been ill for a week, but didn’t want the docto. I feel guilty for not the getting the doctor earlier to her. Mum died of hypertension heart disease, and enlarged heart. I can’t get the image of seeing my mum at home in bed. The ambulance crew tried to resuscitate her. Then I had to tell my dad that mum had gone.
I have been fighting panic attacks and anxiety for last year ! I thought it was the menopause, but I think there is more going on in my mind. I’m wondering if i am grieving ? As I had to be strong for my dad, sister etc at that time … perhaps now it’s my turn ?
Having counselling and having tests done for my palpitations and panic. Making sure it’s not physical. Iv had so many tests done, mri on heart etc … which was fine, obsessed now that I will be next ! I worry bout my family and my daughter etc, getting my will in place etc , in case something happens to me suddenly …. I walk around in a state of worry and panic. Such a vile feeling and lonely one at that. Some days I feel like I’m loosing my mind. She’s not here to talk to now.
Thanks for writing to us. It is so hard to know what causes our anxiety and we think that it can be a few things together. Certainly grief is a major cause of anxiety (we talk about this quite a lot on our site and in our Q&A under resources). Likewise, hormonal changes can definitely create or worsen symptoms of anxiety.
Many of us look back on the time when our loved one was sick and think we wished we did something different. It is a way of feeling in control of a very out of control part of our life. It is impossible to know that a virus was really something else and (having lived with a parent with a chronic physical illness) there is something to the idea that she died without suffering (something that most heart patients cannot say) or feeling prolonged pain or fear. I know that does not make it better for you, but we have seen prolonged medical interventions and how painful they can be on so many levels.
You are not losing your mind. Anxiety is actually a really natural (if unpleasant and scary) part of the grieving process. After you have checked yourself physically, therapy and/or medication is a great idea. We also have so many ideas to look at on our website and under resources (soothers).
Lastly, we have a Secret Facebook group (nobody outside the group can see your comments or even that you are in the group). If you are interested, please email us at email@example.com –the women in the group are so amazing and supportive. It is 5 dollars per month and really worth every penny.
Sending you love and strength, Mags and Abs
You know marijuana can cure some of the illness including my depressive disorder and anxiety, I am suffering it for almost 2 yrs now since my 1st born child past away. By the way, it happened when I am 16 yrs old. Yes, I am very young at that time. That’s why i don’t know what will happen to me that time. I can’t really imagine why she left me that fast. I know its kinda weird but I try to use MJ as my relief for what happens to me and I think it helps me a lot.
Do you have to have all the symptoms noted above to think about seeking a Doctor’s opinion? Thanks for posting. So interesting.
We Anxiety Sisters always recommend checking with a doctor if you have some questionable symptoms. Trust your gut if it is telling you that you may have PCOS, even if you don’t have every symptom (or if you have others not mentioned). Every body is different and experiences illness differently.
Thanks for reading!
Abs & Mags