PCOS and Depression: Common Links and Potential Targets

Reprod Sci. 2022 Nov;29(11):3106-3123. doi: 10.1007/s43032-021-00765-2. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome is a common endocrine disorder that occurs during the reproductive age in females. It manifests in the form of a wide range of symptoms including (but not limited to) hirsutism, amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, obesity, acne vulgaris, infertility, alopecia, and insulin resistance. The incidence of depression in PCOS population is increasing as compared to the general population. Increased depression in PCOS significantly alters the quality of life (QOL) of affected females. Also, self-esteem is found to be low in both depression and PCOS. The loss in self-esteem in such patients can be largely attributed to the associated factors including (but not limited to) obesity, acne, androgenic alopecia, and hirsutism. The reason behind the occurrence of depression in PCOS remains elusive to date. Literature suggests that there is an overlap of clinical symptoms between depression and PCOS. As the symptoms overlap, there is a possibility of common associations between depression, PCOS, and PCOS-associated abnormalities including insulin resistance (IR), obesity, CVD, and androgen excess. Studies demonstrate that depression is an inflammatory disorder marked with increased levels of inflammatory markers. On the other hand, PCOS is also regarded as a pro-inflammatory state that is characterized by increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Thus, there is a possibility of an inflammatory relationship existing between depression and PCOS. It is also possible that the inflammatory markers in PCOS can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) leading to the development of depression. Through the present review, we have attempted to shed light on common associations/shared links between depression and PCOS with respect to the levels of cortisol, androgen, vitamin D, neurotransmitters, monoaminoxidase (MAO), and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Tracking down common associations between depression and PCOS will help find potential drug therapies and improve the QOL of females with depression in PCOS.

Keywords: Depression; Inflammation; Insulin resistance (IR); Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1); Obesity; Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris* / epidemiology
  • Acne Vulgaris* / etiology
  • Alopecia / complications
  • Alopecia / epidemiology
  • Androgens
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Hirsutism
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / complications
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome* / epidemiology
  • Quality of Life


  • Androgens