PCOS and depression

Understanding polycystic ovary syndrome

If you are reading this article you may likely already have a good understanding of what PCOS is. However, for those who don’t, PCOS is a common condition affecting 1 in 10 people with ovaries in the UK. There are many symptoms someone may experience from irregular periods, to excess bodily and facial hair, to oily skin and acne, which vary from person to person.

To be diagnosed with the condition, an individual must meet 2 of the following 3 criteria: irregular periods, high levels of testosterone and polycystic ovaries.

Are you more likely to have depression if you have PCOS?

Research in individuals has suggested there may be a link between PCOS and depression, but does this mean you’re more likely to have the two? Studies that have compared women with PCOS with those without it, have found that those with PCOS are at a higher risk of depression. But why is this?

Many researchers have suggested that it may be a result of symptoms, however, this may be a case of over-simplifying a very complex disorder. In fact, research into 135 women with PCOS, screening for depression whilst accounting for symptoms and circumstances, would counteract this. The study found that while 64% of those with PCOS had depression, a correlation was not found between depression occurring and the severity of symptoms or an individual’s social situation.

So, what is the connection between PCOS and Depression?

Some have suggested that depression may be as a result of chronic inflammation. Similarly, as you may have heard, inflammation has also been linked with PCOS. Briefly, some inflammation is good, it is a normal and essential function. However, when your immune system response is constantly activated, like in chronic inflammation, this can begin to cause health issues.

Chemicals, called cytokines, are produced during an inflammatory reaction, and produce a variety of symptoms which also appear in depression. These same cytokines, appear to be reduced when some types of antidepressants are taken. Thus, suggesting this may be the mechanism through which they act to reduce symptoms of depression.

Research has found that artificially inducing inflammation, in normally ‘healthy people’, can lead to the onset of depressive symptoms. Some inflammatory markers have been found to be 96% higher in women with PCOS compared to those without. Therefore, inflammation could in part explain the higher prevalence of depression in those with PCOS. It is important to remember this is just one theory to explain the connection, and whilst there is some evidence to support this, further research is needed.

Inflammation, PCOS and Depression

Insulin resistance

In summary, it is estimated that up to 70% of people with PCOS have insulin resistance, regardless of body weight. Individuals who met all 3 diagnostic criteria, have the highest prevalence of insulin resistance.

Evidence suggests insulin resistance and inflammation are closely connected.

Vitamin D Deficiency

One study found around 70-85% of individuals with PCOS were deficient in vitamin D.

Interestingly, vitamin D, has been linked with helping to improve mood, with some research suggesting supplementation can help to manage mood. While further research is required, it is an interesting area of discussion.

Lack of sleep

Sleep disturbances such as sleep apnea and insomnia, are more common in those with PCOS, linked with lower sleep quality, which may exacerbate PCOS symptoms.

Interestingly, studies have found reduced sleep can increase inflammatory markers, it’s also known as a contributing factor for the development of depression.


Whilst, the reasons behind the connection between PCOS and depression require further investigation, there does appear to be an increased risk of depressive disorders in individuals with PCOS. This does not mean you will get depression if you suffer with PCOS by any means, it just means you may have a higher likelihood compared to someone without the condition.

If you are concerned you may be suffering with depression or the onset of, it is extremely important to consult with a healthcare professional.

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