For many women self-esteem is based exclusively on their body image and as a consequence their social functioning and interpersonal relations are affected.  It becomes even more complicated when the woman suffers physical changes or disfigurement due to an illness such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is normally characterized as hyperandrogenism related with chronic anovulation in women without any other underlying disease. It is said to affect 5%– 10% of ladies in the developed world. Changes in the appearance, irregular or absent menstrual periods, and difficulties in conceiving (which are the most common symptoms of Polycystic ovary syndrome) can result in psychological distress and may also influence the feminine identity of the patients with Polycystic ovary syndrome, thus, affecting her overall self-concept.

It has been well reported that women who have Polycystic ovary syndrome have elevated levels of psychological stress. Depression and anxiety are common in such women. The prevalence of depression in Polycystic ovary syndrome is high, affecting approximately 34% of women, whereas anxiety is seen in approximately 45% of women with Polycystic ovary syndrome. Mood disorders are common in many obese patients.

Women with Polycystic ovary syndrome have been found to have diminished personal satisfaction as well as low/decreased quality of life in overall sex and health. It has been well exhibited that women who have polycystic ovary syndrome show greater body dissatisfaction than women who do not have polycystic ovary syndrome and have regular cycles, despite modification for body mass index.

At any age, polycystic ovary syndrome can be a devastating and overwhelming experience for women, particularly amid their reproductive years. Thus, it can be concluded that there is a need for more longitudinal investigations to inquire into the impact of polycystic ovary syndrome on the mental health of women of all age groups, with a particular emphasis on self-image.

 -By Priyanka Bhalla, Psychologist for NWNT