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A New Study Explains Why Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Are More Prone to Anxiety and Depression

A New Study Explains Why Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Are More Prone to Anxiety and Depression

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance that affects around 5 million women (around 2 in 10) of reproductive age in the U.S. PCOS can lead to irregular periods and difficulty getting pregnant.

"Most women with PCOS grow many small cysts on their ovaries. That is why it is called polycystic ovary syndrome," WebMD explains.

But PCOS is often linked to psychological issues in addition to the physical ones, with 60 percent of patients experiencing at least one mental health problem, typically anxiety or depression, according to research. The daughters of women with PCOS often develop psychological issues of their own, and this new research by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden provides a possible reason why: Women with PCOS tend to have high levels of androgens (male hormones) in their blood, according to the study.

"Offspring exposed to testosterone in a late fetal stage display a higher degree of anxiety-like behavior as adults than individuals born under normal circumstances," the study says. The amygdala, a part of the brain involved in multiple emotional processes, was most affected by the hormone exposure, according to the study.

While it was known that PCOS involves a hormone imbalance, and that many women with the syndrome experienced mental health issues, this new research provides a concrete link between the issues that explains the cause and effect.

The good news: The research has not yet been conducted on humans, but when rats in the study were given drugs to block their androgenic and oestrogenic receptors, "The animals were protected against the development of the anxiety-like behaviour in adulthood,” principal investigator Elisabet Stener-Victorin said in the press release.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images