living with pcos
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PCOS & Mental Health: 3 Research Observations

You’ve heard about the physical signs and symptoms of living with PCOS. But have you ever wondered how PCOS affects mental health? Struggling to obtain a diagnosis or navigating living with PCOS can be emotionally draining and disempowering—but did you know that for some it can instead be affirming or empowering?
Written by Dr. Stacey Williams

In this article /

    living with pcos
    Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disorder of people of reproductive age, affecting over 116 million people worldwide, or 1 in 10 menstruating people. PCOS is a condition that can have huge impacts on overall quality of life.
    Here are 3 research-backed observations about PCOS and mental health.

    PCOS is Stigmatizing

    In The Psychology of PCOS, Dr. Stacey Williams explores the psychological science behind PCOS. The book examines the experiences and psychosocial impacts of both cisgender and gender diverse individuals living with PCOS.

    Dr. Williams reports that PCOS is stigmatizing not because you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, but because of stigma attached to symptoms like body hair, weight gain and infertility. The psychological challenges are based on our society’s expectations for bodies assigned female at birth, such as being hairlessness, thin, and fertile. 

    The “Side Effects” Can Be Positive for Gender Diverse Individuals

    Dr. Williams’ interviews revealed an unexpected finding: those who identified as trans masculine or nonbinary found that PCOS symptoms like hirsutism (excess facial hair and excess other hair growth), affirmed their gender identity.  
    Treatments for PCOS are feminizing, attempting to reduce unwanted facial hair and bring on regular menstrual cycles. These may not be wanted among folks who are gender diverse. Some in the PCOS gender diverse community found that because of their PCOS symptoms, they were further along in their transition. Some even saw it as a superpower or asset and others in the community were envious of them.

    Increased Risks of Anxiety and Depression

    There have been numerous bio medical research studies comparing cis gender people with PCOS to those without and across the board there is an increased risk of experiencing mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
    Dr. Williams’ study found a few links, such as respondents feeling invisible and isolated with their PCOS diagnosis. Respondents also reported negative interactions with medical providers spanning from dismissiveness of their health problems to weight bias, and an overall lack of cultural competence working with gender diverse people and people of color.  

    However, Dr. Williams’ research found that while anxiety and depression were a dominant theme among respondents, many also talked about psychological growth. Yes, PCOS is a struggle—with irregular periods, insulin resistance, challenges with weight loss, battles with birth control, and more—and yet the journey provides an opportunity to learn so much about one’s body and oneself. Self-discovery even through the lens of adversity was seen as a positive outcome of PCOS.

    Research into better diagnosis and treatment is, however, increasing. To learn more about current research into PCOS diagnosis and treatment, read our blog, 3 Things You May Not Know about PCOS.
    Dr. Stacey Williams

    About the contributor

    Dr. Stacey Williams is a social-health psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychology at East Tennessee State University. "The Psychology of PCOS" was written to encourage psychological scientists to study the severely understudied condition of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).


    • Bulsara, Jeshica, et al. “A Review: Brief Insight into Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.” Endocrine and Metabolic Science, vol. 3, 30 June 2021, p. 100085,,
    • Gnawali, Anupa, et al. “Why Are Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome at Increased Risk of Depression? Exploring the Etiological Maze.” Cureus, vol. 13, no. 2, 22 Feb. 2021,,
    • Williams, Stacey L. The Psychology of PCOS. American Psychological Association (APA), 2023.