PCOS and ADHD: What You Need To Know


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pcos and adhdAre PCOS and ADHD linked?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common disorder that affects women of all ages starting from puberty. Women suffering from PCOS often develop various mental health disorders. While ADHD develops during childhood, there could also be a link between the two.

PCOS is a disorder that affects one in ten women. The condition can cause infertility, diabetes, and an increased possibility of developing anxiety or depression. While there has yet to be a direct tie identified between PCOS and ADHD in women, those with PCOS are more likely to have a child with ADHD. Higher rates of ADHD have also been observed among PCOS women versus women without PCOS.

The rest of this article will discuss both PCOS and ADHD in detail, the link between PCOS and ADHD, and whether PCOS causes ADHD. I’ll also discuss weight issues involved with PCOS and how it relates to eating disorders in women with ADHD.

What Is PCOS?

PCOS is a disorder that involves an imbalance of hormones, specifically reproductive hormones in women. The disorder is common among women, affecting one in ten women of childbearing age. The exact cause for PCOS isn’t known. However, studies have shown that it is strongly influenced by genes.

Therefore, you are more likely to have it if it runs in your family. 

Several hormone imbalances are responsible for PCOS development, including high levels of androgens (or the “male hormones”) and high insulin levels, which are responsible for converting your food into energy. 

There are many symptoms and warning signs of PCOS, most of which will begin showing around puberty. Some of the symptoms that are more visible include:

  • Weight Issues: Women with PCOS often struggle with gaining and losing weight.
  • Irregular menstrual cycle: PCOS can cause women to have a menstrual cycle too often, not often enough, or the cycle may stop altogether.
  • Excess hair growth: Excess hair growth is one of the most common PCOS symptoms- affecting seven in ten women with PCOS. The condition is called hirsutism and causes women to experience hair growth on the face, chest, and other parts of the body men typically grow hair.
  • Acne: Acne in women with PCOS can appear all over the body, including the face, back, and chest.
  • Thinning hair on the scalp: Male pattern baldness is common in women with PCOS.
  • Skin darkening: It’s not unusual to see skin darkening around the groin, neck, or underneath breasts.

Some symptoms of PCOS are not so noticeable, like:

  • Infertility: Infertility could be caused by a number of things. Women with PCOS struggle with infertility because of the imbalance of hormones. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant if you have PCOS.
  • Insulin resistance: Another PCOS symptom you can’t physically see is insulin resistance; this is a dangerous symptom of PCOS that can lead to diabetes.
  • Ovarian cysts: While ovarian cysts aren’t visible, this is one of the main reasons women with PCOS can’t get pregnant. 

PCOS Hormonal Imbalance

A hormonal imbalance is what causes PCOS in women. The imbalance of reproductive hormones causes problems in the ovaries, causing the egg not to develop as it should or it may not be released during ovulation. Because of this, infertility becomes a significant problem for many women with PCOS. 

High levels of androgens, or male hormones, in the body can prevent the ovaries from releasing, therefore leading to other symptoms, such as infertility. The male hormones also cause many of the symptoms mentioned earlier, such as pattern baldness or excess hair growth. 

Can I Still Get Pregnant if I Have PCOS?

You can still get pregnant if you have PCOS. While PCOS does cause infertility in some women, not every woman with PCOS will have infertility issues. Around 70-80 percent of women with PCOS will be infertile. Many women with PCOS struggle with fertility because it’s hard to tell when they’re ovulating. 

However, talking with your doctor and knowing when you’re ovulating can help your chances of conceiving.

Although women can still get pregnant with PCOS, there are still problems to look out for during the pregnancy, such as:

  • Miscarriage: Women with PCOS are more likely to miscarry than those without PCOS.
  • Preeclampsia: Preeclampsia is a condition during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure. As women with PCOS are more likely to have problems such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia is more common. 
  • Gestational Diabetes: This is a type of diabetes during pregnancy that can affect your blood sugar levels. Just like with PCOS, women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Cesarean section: Women with PCOS are more likely to need a c-section.

Can I Prevent Pregnancy Problems Caused by PCOS?

You can’t prevent all issues related to PCOS. However, you can try to decrease your chances of some problems by focusing on your health. Taking care of your health is vital.

As overweight or obese women also struggle with infertility and miscarriages, ensuring you’re at a healthy weight before getting pregnant could help with pregnancy issues involving PCOS.

It’s also essential to make sure your blood sugar levels are healthy before getting pregnant, which can tremendously affect the pregnancy. Taking the necessary prenatal vitamins and talking to your doctor would be the best option.

How Is PCOS Diagnosed?

PCOS is typically diagnosed via physical exam, blood tests, a pelvic exam, and ultrasounds. Doctors will look for discoloration and excess hair and test for extra male hormones through the pelvic exam and blood tests. 

If a woman shows any of these significant signs, she will be diagnosed with PCOS. While there’s no known cure, you can treat PCOS through various medications.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder developed during childhood. This disorder involves the inability to focus on tasks, fidgeting, difficulty resisting temptation, and many other symptoms. The cause of ADHD is not entirely known. However, it is believed that genetics play a role.

While genetics may be a factor that causes ADHD, there are also other factors studies have shown that could be a possible cause, like:

  • Brain injury
  • Premature birth
  • Exposure to tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy

There are three main types of ADHD, with each having different symptoms:

  1. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: This includes being unable to sit still, excessive talking, and being impulsive.
  2. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: This includes having difficulty finishing tasks, following conversations, paying attention, or following routines.
  3. Combined Presentation: This includes both Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation and Predominantly Inattentive Presentation symptoms.

Although ADHD is only developed during childhood, people usually do not realize that they have ADHD or are not diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood. With that being said, adults can’t develop ADHD, even if they have other disorders linked to ADHD.

Is There a Link Between PCOS and ADHD?

PCOS and ADHD are both common disorders that can affect women. However, that doesn’t always mean they’re directly linked, as there isn’t much evidence to prove so. However, there are some links involving the two.

PCOS and ADHD aren’t always linked. However, some studies have shown that women with PCOS and ADHD do have higher ADHD symptoms. That doesn’t mean that every woman with PCOS will have ADHD, though. Studies have also shown children with mothers with PCOS may have a higher risk of ADHD.

A group of people conducted a study in 2015 on women with PCOS between the ages of 18 and 35. This study was investigating the ADHD symptoms in women with PCOS. This study found that women with PCOS had a higher ADHD self-report scale

Despite this, more studies are needed in order to determine if there’s a definite link between PCOS and ADHD in women.

Can PCOS Cause ADHD?

Studies have shown that women with PCOS are more likely to have children suffering from ADHD. Of course, that doesn’t mean that PCOS necessarily causes ADHD in women. Children born to women with PCOS and hirsutism symptoms are 2.3 times more likely to have ADHD than a child whose mother doesn’t have PCOS.

Researchers believe that the high levels of androgen that women with PCOS have can affect the fetus’s brain development in the womb. In fact, studies involving animals with high levels of androgen have shown that the offspring exhibit more anxious behaviors than others, which can be a symptom of ADHD.

PCOS and Adderall

ADHD can cause many people to have the inability to focus on tasks, making it hard to go to work or school every day. Therefore, sometimes medication is needed. Adderall is a common form of medication for people with ADHD as it acts as a stimulant and helps with concentration.

However, like most medications, there are possible side effects and symptoms involved with taking Adderall, these are:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Abdominal pain

 

While these side effects are something to consider before taking Adderall, especially for a woman with PCOS, Adderall is still safe to take as long as you consult your doctor about any possible medication you may already be on for PCOS.

As women with PCOS are at a higher risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety, symptoms such as depression, panic attacks, or mood swings are a severe concern. It would be best to always talk about these concerns with your doctor.

PCOS, Weight Gain, and ADHD

Weight gain, while common with many disorders, is a concern with PCOS because of the increased risk of diabetes and obesity already present with the condition. Many people with ADHD also struggle with eating disorders leading to excessive weight gain and often significant changes in weight in a short period. 

PCOS and Weight Gain

Due to the high levels of insulin often seen in women with PCOS, weight gain is a common problem. Obesity is a symptom commonly seen in women with PCOS, and losing weight is typically more challenging.

PCOS causes the body to struggle with using the hormone insulin. Therefore, the body does not convert food into energy, which insulin should do, causing a build-up of insulin and glucose in the bloodstream.

Disordered Eating in Women With ADHD

While not every woman with ADHD will struggle with eating disorders, it’s common to see. Some studies suggest that ADHD is associated with disordered eating behavior. This type of behavior is often seen in women with Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, as people with this type of ADHD often struggle with impulsivity. 

Therefore, binge-eating or over-eating behavior is possible. There’s steady evidence showing that people with ADHD and impulsive symptoms are associated with overeating and even bulimia. Therefore, similar to PCOS, weight gain is commonly seen in women with ADHD.

Although women with PCOS who struggle with weight gain and women with ADHD who struggle with disordered eating are two different disorders, comparing the two often leads to links that have to do with hormones in the body (such as insulin for PCOS and ghrelin for ADHD).

However, they don’t always go hand-in-hand. It would be best to talk with your doctor about weight gain and struggles with eating before diagnosing yourself, as this can be dangerous.

Final Thoughts

PCOS and ADHD are both common disorders often seen in women. While many of the symptoms seem to correlate, like weight gain, the science has not determined any direct linkages, yet linked. PCOS cannot cause ADHD and vice versa; however, the evidence does suggest women with PCOS are more likely to have a child with ADHD.

There’s some evidence that suggests women who have PCOS and ADHD do show higher ADHD symptoms. However, more studies are needed to prove that there is a link between the two. It’s essential to talk to a doctor if you think you might have PCOS or ADHD.



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