Can Stress Make PCOS Worse?

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can stress make pcos worse?
I think stress can make pcos worse

I’ve often wondered to myself, “can stress make PCOS worse?” I’ve brushed it off in the past, thinking there’s really not much I can control. I thought about it again this week. On Wednesday, I went back to work after a 2+ week vacation (it was glorious!). On Tuesday night, I had my first outburst—the first one in about two weeks, mind you—at my husband. He asked me a simple question and I just snapped. For a split second I had no idea where the anger was coming from, and then I remembered: “oh, it’s because I go back to work tomorrow.”

I like my job duties well enough, but the environment in which I work is such an energy-suck. I work on a large campus that houses over 1,000 employees in a dozen buildings or so. The building I am in is an abandoned warehouse with gray walls, ceilings and floors. There are only a few windows around the perimeter (the higher-ups get to enjoy those) and very little natural light; I have two lamps and that doesn’t even cut it most days. Even the cubical walls are grey. It’s just a dark, dreary place that totally dampens my mood each day I walk in. The fact that I work all day in the death-building combined with the fact that there’s little-to-no-time at night to get the 576 things I need to get done in a day leads me to stress out a lot. It was nice on vacation: we went to bed late and—thanks to my son—got to sleep in late, too. There was TIME. Whereas now there is not. It sounds silly, but it stresses me out.

I started this job a bit over four years ago, which was—you guessed it—when I really started to notice my hair loss. And other symptoms, too: my acne got a bit worse. I started not sleeping. I became irritable. I wasn’t myself. Things improved a bit and then got worse again…it was a never-ending cycle.

Is stress totally to blame for PCOS? I don’t think so, but I do think stress can make PCOS worse. So many of us are sensitive to testosterone, and we know stress can raise testosterone levels. Those of us who struggle in this area might experience a double-whammy.

My hair loss really sped up when I was pregnant—again, stress (sure, I was emotionally stressed but my body was physically stressed). Then, after I had my son, I got *really* stressed: he was born early and had some heart issues. He also had sleep apnea and was put on a heart monitor. He had reflux, which caused him to be colick-y (he is now 100% a-ok in all areas, thank goodness). My sleeping got even WORSE—there was days when I probably got only 90 minutes total of fragmented sleep. Not because he work up every few hours (which he did), but because something changed in my body after giving birth; I had sleep issues for awhile, but now my body Simply. Would. Not. Sleep. Catnaps save mothers’ lives; I experienced one only once. And that was because my Mom came over to babysit while I took a nap. It was BAD. Once he started sleeping through the night (around 4 months) things improved a bit with my own sleep habits; now, I only have really horrible nights about twice/week. But, during that time period, my body was certainly stressed…and that is when my major hair loss happened. It was also post-birth (and post-nursing) that my periods became wackier than ever. My body was officially screwed up!

Things have evened out a bit since then but I’m still “blessed” with some lingering issues—the most “important” one being the hair loss. So, this year I need to learn to chill out. I don’t know how I’ll teach myself this, but I owe it to my health.

How about you—can stress make PCOS worse, in your opinion?

There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at

6 thoughts on “Can Stress Make PCOS Worse?”

  1. Hi!
    I found you in SC 🙂
    I do think stress makes PCOS worse. I did have symptoms from 2005 but had no idea I have PCOS – hairloss, bacne and prolonged periods. I was going through a rough patch of life from 2009 to 2011 that peaked crazy during the end of 2011. And lo! My hair fell so bad that it went from normal to thin in 3 months (and friends started sympathizing on my receding hairline as well:P) and cycles were all over the place. My skin, my immunity went bad all of a sudden. I had to look up in the Internet and visit an endo to get dx’ed.

    Now, my stress is pretty much under control and I also made major lifestyle modifications. I’m seeing some improvements in my symptoms 🙂

  2. I stumbled upon your blog and although I haven’t read all of it, I wanted to see if you have every tried the Nioxin hair products? I also have PCOS and thin hair- Nioxin shampoo/conditioner/root stimulator really helped in growing lots of new hair. I’m 6 months pregnant now and am also nervous to see how much I lose after baby…

    • I have! I started back up on it about 2 months ago, maybe a little less. What level do you use? I haven’t tried the root stimulator, but I am using the cleanser and conditioner, both level 4. The Spiro that I’m on causes a decrease in oil production; this is great because I only have to wash my hair every third day. I’ve heard, though, that for women with hair issues & PCOS, it’s better to was most everyday to clear out any excess DHT, SOOOO…for me and my current regiment, I’m unclear if Nioxin is “working”. Since I bought jumbo-sized bottles, I’ll continue to use it, though. 🙂 Hopefully I’ll have more concrete, positive news to report back soon.

      Congrats on the pregnancy! Everyone’s experience is so different; I hope you don’t lose any more hair outside the realm of normal, post-pregnancy!

  3. I think stress can effect just about anything in your body and normal functioning. I am similar to you in this way as well- job is stressing, no time to get anything done, don’t handle stress all that well. I don’t know if stress and PCOS are directly correlated, but intertwined I think you are right in that in certainly doesn’t help! I have high testosterone levels, haven’t had them tested in years since I have been on Spiro, but I should keep in mind that being stressed isn’t helping those levels and my sensitivity to it.


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