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PCOS and Depression, PCOS and StressIts toxic effects on our health and our PCOS symptoms expression

Stress, in itself, is actually a very healthy physiological response to our experiences, internal and external. It heightens our awareness, can heighten our drive, it makes us more alert, focused and sharp; it’s a natural and healthy response to our world. Although it is natural and good to have stress every now and then, when it gets beyond our ability to internally cope, such as a situation of chronic stress or very high stress or a lowered ability to handle stress, that’s when it becomes an issue for our health and we will seek external modes of handling stress such as food, alcohol, drugs, lashing out at others and other forms of detrimental behavior. It can also lead to consistent low-grade inflammation, which as you’ve already learned in our Glucose and Gluten Education section, we already struggle with this issue, and it can lead to heart attack, stroke, menstrual issues, digestive issues, headaches and migraines, chronic pain and many other physiological and psychological issues. It’s also important to note that when we don’t get enough sleep, when we are depressed or anxious, our ability to internally cope with stress also declines, leading to a lower threshold of stress coping abilities. There are many reasons for stress, some good, some not so good, but chronic stress can lead to detrimental health concerns, particularly for PCOS.

PCOS and Stress, PCOS and DepressionChronic stress & PCOS

Stress, alone, can be identified as, “any uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes” (APA, 2016). Chronic stress can be identified as stress that doesn’t give the individual the opportunity to live a normal life for an extended period of time (typically, 3 weeks or longer).  Chronic stress can be a huge issue for PCOS, particularly with keeping your PCOS symptoms in balance. We already struggle with higher rates of depression and anxiety, then you add chronic stress on top of this, and it can heavily affect your ability to mange our PCOS and it can deeply affect our overall wellbeing. With chronic stress, the body tends to excrete more cortisol at inappropriate times leading to weight-gain, which women with PCOS already tend to struggle with as well. You see, our bodies already have the internal coping mechanisms to handle stress, but when your body is constantly pulling from these internal resources to manage your stress chronically, it can cause exhaustion and your body will eventually run out of internal resources from which to pull. When this happens, our self-sabotaging coping mechanisms may rear their ugly heads. For PCOS, that may be binge-eating, particularly on foods and beverages that are detrimental to our PCOS (cakes, cookies, candies, chips, ice cream, cheese, sodas etcetera), that may be intense mood swings and snapping at the ones that we love, increased alcohol usage, usage of recreational drugs, being completely drained of energy causing sedentary behavior. We will also tend to have less quality sleep and sleep less in general, which, as you’ve learned in the Sleep Educationsection, can significantly interfere with our hunger signals and our hormones. Chronic stress can create serious consequences for our health, over time. These issues can lead to:

  • Heart attack or stroke – women with PCOS already have a higher risk of having these
  • Issues with hormonal regulation – a hallmark of PCOS
  • High blood pressure – women with PCOS already have a higher risk of this, as well
  • Decreased immune function
  • Obesity – women with PCOS already have a higher risk of being obese
  • Chronic inflammation – women with PCOS already tend to have this
  • Disregulated appetite – women with PCOS already tend to develop binge-eating or bulimia eating disorders
  • Increased levels of prolactin (Chen, 2014)

I wish it was as easy to say, “just let your stress go!”, but with constant work toward lowering stress levels, it can have a huge influence on your ability to manage PCOS. Here are a few ideas to help you with managing your stress levels,

  • Delegate tasks
  • Practice meditation and/or yoga
  • Take a few deep, “belly” breaths every time you begin to have the feeling of stress set in
  • Create lists and plan ahead
  • Don’t take on more than you know you can handle – we already are Super Women!
  • Exercise
  • Take time out and replenish your energy
  • Talk to your significant other, family member or friend about your feelings of stress
  • Manage your time wisely
  • Work with a health coach to give you tips and help you stay on track with managing stress
  • Speak with a psychologist, therapist, counselor or, if meds are needed, psychiatrist

Take home message-Knowledge IS PowerPCOS Balance, PCOS and Caffeine

Managing stress can be a difficult task, but with constant practice, it can become engrained into your daily routine. Stress can have such detrimental effects on our physiological and psychological wellbeing, particularly for PCOS. Always remember, our ACE FITNESS Certified Health Coach can help you gain control over your stress, working with you to help you find balance and strategizing plans to help you better manage your stress. Be mindful of your stress levels because they will wreak havoc on all of your PCOS balancing efforts.


Chen, Y. & Lyga, J. (2014). Brain-Skin Connections: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging. Retrieve from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/