The experience of stress in women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome

Amanda Canavatchel


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex endocrine disorder that affects multiple organ systems within the female body, hallmarked by infertility, the possibility of androgen excess, and the possibility of ovulatory dysfunction. Along with a myriad of physiological symptoms, PCOS is also associated with many psychological issues, including an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and lower reported quality of life among women diagnosed with PCOS. The need for treatment directed to attenuate any psychological implications of the syndrome has become increasingly important are of research. While some researchers have focused on PCOS in a psychosocial perspective, including analysis on depression, anxiety, and quality of life, more research is needed on how women with PCOS experience stress. This study examined how 16 women with PCOS physiologically responded to a brief stressor, the Social Competence Interview (SCI), as compared to a healthy control population (n=64). Saliva samples were collected at 5 time points (S0-S4) before, during, and after the interview to measure cortisol reactivity to the stressor. Further, the participants were asked to fill out questionnaires to gather information about their perceived stress, their psychiatric symptoms, and their physiological health. Results indicated that women with PCOS reported significantly more somatic complaints than healthy controls. Women with PCOS also had a higher baseline cortisol level than healthy controls. Future research should examine other psychological and physiological factors that could contribute to the experience of stress in women with PCOS.