PCOS and Your Self-Esteem

Acne, unwanted hair growth, weight gain can lead to depression

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can have a negative effect on a woman's self-esteem. This condition causes symptoms that can include acne, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), hair loss, obesity, and infertility.

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Not every woman’s experience with PCOS is identical, and the effect that this syndrome has on self-esteem can differ from one woman to another. In addition to the impact of PCOS, keep in mind that your self-esteem is also shaped by your other life experiences and coping skills.

Common Effects

PCOS causes women to have higher than normal androgen levels. Androgens are a class of hormones that include testosterone. These hormones typically produce biological effects that are more commonly seen in males than in females.

Elevated levels of androgens cause alterations in a woman's appearance— breakouts, male pattern baldness, and hair growth on the face, chest or stomach.

Acne breakouts affect self-esteem, and hair loss and excess facial hair can also give you a physical appearance that you do not like. All of these changes in your appearance can cause an inconvenience as you try to deal with them, and they have been found to contribute to serious self-esteem issues for women who have PCOS.

The high androgen levels of PCOS also cause irregular periods, which makes it hard to predict when you will have your next period—and can interfere with planning certain activities.

The symptoms of PCOS result from hormonal imbalances—and the usual medication and treatment regimens for conditions like acne or hair loss may not be effective for managing these issues. The physical symptoms of PCOS are unlikely to improve unless the underlying hormonal issues are addressed as well.

Weight and Diabetes

Elevated androgen levels can cause diabetes-associated insulin resistance and weight gain, especially around the abdomen and waist. Being overweight can make a person feel self-conscious and it has even been associated with discrimination.

Because of the hormonal factors, women with PCOS may have a difficult time losing weight with commonly used strategies such as diet and exercise alone. The difficulties that you may face when trying to lose weight can contribute to low self-esteem. But keep in mind that this is part of your condition and it is not your fault.

Excess body weight, insulin resistance, and diabetes all contribute to each other—and PCOS is an underlying factor that raises the risk of each of these health issues.


Women who have difficulty becoming pregnant often do not know how to gauge whether they are having medical problems with infertility. If you and your partner want to conceive a child, this PCOS-associated difficulty can make one or both of you feel inadequate, unhappy, and confused

Problems with fertility can lead to depression, guilt, blame, relationship problems, and denial. Infertility treatment typically involves medical tests, medical therapy, and counseling. Reproductive counseling often includes psychological counseling that can help you improve your self-esteem as you address your medical issues.

Health Issues

PCOS can cause health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, endometrial cancer, and high cholesterol.

Sometimes, having a chronic disease at a young age or living with the fear that chronic disease will develop can negatively affect your feelings of self-worth.

You may be advised to eat a healthy diet or exercise regularly in order to stay healthy or keep from getting sick, and taking these actions can help you build your self-esteem and sense of control in managing your PCOS.


Women who have PCOS are at risk for depression and depressive symptoms. There are a number of factors that contribute to depression in PCOS, including the changes in a woman's physical appearance, medical effects of PCOS, and possibly hormonal factors as well.

If you are experiencing some of the physical signs of depression (depressed mood, loss of motivation, insomnia, overeating, sleeping too much and not eating) or beginning feel that you are overwhelmed with your PCOS and its effects on your life, seeing a therapist or counselor and learning coping strategies might be the best thing for you.

A Word From Verywell

When you are living with PCOS, it is important that you are not hard on yourself for this condition because it is something that you can’t control.

Be sure to see a doctor for consistent management of your PCOS. There are many different medications and treatments available and it might take some time until you find the right combination that works for you.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Azizi Kutenaee M, Amirjani S, Asemi Z, et al. The impact of depression, self-esteem, and body image on sleep quality in patients with PCOS: a cross-sectional study. Sleep Breath. 2019. doi:10.1007/s11325-019-01946-9

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By Nicole Galan, RN
Nicole Galan, RN, is a registered nurse and the author of "The Everything Fertility Book."