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My anxiety became extremely noticeable when my polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms started surfacing. The moment my period started coming twice a month and my mood swings started becoming worse, I also started feeling anxious more often and had my first panic attack around that time.
I do not know if it is a chicken or egg type of situation. Does polycystic ovary syndrome cause anxiety, or does having anxiety worsen PCOS symptoms?
I do know that when your cortisol levels are elevated (which is the main stress hormones) your ovaries can be triggered to produce more testosterone. In fact, high insulin levels and high cortisol levels are two of the main causes of the production of excess testosterone in women with PCOS.
A lot of women with polycystic ovary syndrome also have the MTHFR gene mutation, which has also been linked to anxiety. People with the MTHFR gene mutation are often undermethylated and have folate deficiencies.
If you have done any research on polycystic ovary syndrome, you will know that a folate deficiency is also one of the causes of PCOS symptoms. That is why doctors usually recommend that women with polycystic ovary syndrome supplement with folic acid, which is the synthetic form of folate, but cannot be absorbed by people with the MTHFR gene mutation.
I know a lot about anxiety and have learned this through years of experience with anxiety itself and doing research. It is safe to say that I have had my fair share of panic attacks over the last few years in which I have been struggling with PCOS.
A lot of research still needs to be done around polycystic ovary syndrome and symptoms like anxiety, but until then, all we can really do is find ways of managing anxiety and reducing it while also taking care of the deficiencies that are associated with polycystic ovary syndrome in the hope that it will also reduce anxiety and cortisol levels.
Here are a few tips for lowering anxiety when you have polycystic ovary syndrome:
Do Breathing Exercises or Meditate
Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, and it is free to do. If you cannot afford therapy, at least you can afford to breathe deeply. I recommend that you breathe in for at least four counts and then out for four, and to take at least six deep breaths whenever you are stressed, as that is how many breaths it takes to start signalling your body that everything is ok and to start to calm you down.
Starting a meditation practice is harder, but is also very helpful in the treatment of anxiety.
Exercise for Anxiety with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Do something physical to relieve some of the tension. Exercise is one of the greatest anti-anxiety treatments that are out there. When the fight-or-flight response is triggered because you are in danger, you probably must run or fight to save your life, or at least that is what your body thinks is supposed to happen.
When in the fight-or-flight response mode, your body secretes cortisol and adrenaline in order to help you fight or run. We have invented a lot of reasons to stress, such as not sending an email or being ten minutes late, but we do not often get that physical movement necessary to relieve the tension and to get rid of the adrenaline and cortisol that now have been elevated.
Just moving your body for a few minutes after a stressful day or just a stressful event can I help calm you down a lot. Strength exercises like weightlifting offer quick relief from anxiety, while if you do cardio regularly over a few weeks, that will also start to have wonderful anti-anxiety effects.
Follow a Healthy Diet for PCOS Anxiety
Reduce your intake of caffeine and clean up your diet. If having polycystic ovary syndrome makes you more anxious in general, then you do not want to make it worse by following an unhealthy diet that is high in sugar, which leads to more increases in adrenaline.
Sugar leads to energy crashes, and when your blood sugar levels are low, your cortisol levels increase. The unstable blood sugar levels could make you more anxious in general by contributing to elevated cortisol levels.
PCOS is also associated with a lot of inflammation in the body and you want to cut out foods that cause inflammation, such as sugar, gluten, dairy, and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Reducing inflammation will help you improve other PCOS symptoms that can contribute to anxiety.
Do Things That Help You Relax
Make a list of at least five other things that help you relax and help bring you some relief from anxiety. Every individual is different, and what is relaxing for you might be stressful for another. For example, some people might find horse riding quite relaxing, while I might be a little bit more anxious when doing so.
If going to a yoga class without any experience makes you too anxious, then practice at home first before you go if that is something that you want to do.
Something to Remember
Remember that dealing with PCOS symptoms can trigger anxiety as well. Personally, having acne thanks to my PCOS does make me anxious often and even depressed at times. Losing your hair or gaining weight can also be anxiety triggers for many, and these are symptoms that women with PCOS often must deal with.
Almost half of women with PCOS have anxiety, so it is not hard to draw a correlation between having polycystic ovary syndrome and anxiety. For me, knowing that my anxiety could be linked to having the condition makes me feel a lot better about having it, as I do not judge myself as harshly because of it.
As I learn more about polycystic ovary syndrome and anxiety, I promise I will share what I learn with you along the way, but for now, just know that having anxiety is not a bad thing. It is quite common, especially among women with PCOS.
Also, focus on the things that you can do currently to improve your anxiety and polycystic ovary syndrome symptoms. And be patient, as one day, I am sure we will figure it out.