People every day are getting more familiar with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Since it’s one of the most common disorders for women of childbearing age, pretty much everyone knows at least one woman who struggles with the effects of PCOS. However, the only symptoms of PCOS most people know about are infertility and weight gain. There is a lot more to PCOS than this!
It’s true that these are definitely challenging symptoms of PCOS, but beyond infertility and weight gain, PCOS can also cause mood swings, mental health disorders, sleep issues, hair loss, acne, fatigue, and more. Recently, researchers have even found a link between PCOS and ADHD.
If you’re a Cyster with ADHD or if you think you might have ADHD, this post will help you understand the correlation between PCOS and ADHD and hopefully help you find some relief. Here’s what Cysters need to know about PCOS and ADHD:
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. Like PCOS, medical professionals are not sure what causes ADHD.
Often, when we hear about ADHD, we think of wild children with lots of big emotions and problems paying attention. However, ADHD doesn’t exhibit itself the same in every person and ADHD usually continues into adulthood, especially if left untreated.
That being said, women rarely receive treatment before adulthood, because women are often not diagnosed until their 30s or 40s, whereas men are usually diagnosed before age 12. This is because women normally fall into the “inattentive” ADHD category that doesn’t have the fidgetiness and hyperactiveness that are identified at young ages.
As mentioned, ADHD can continue into adulthood, and adults with ADHD show symptoms differently than children. Here are some signs you may have ADHD as an adult:
Symptoms of ADHD in Adults
- Careless mistakes and lack of attention to detail
- Always starting new tasks before finishing others
- Problems relaxing and being calm
- Talks over people and struggles to sit quietly
- Mood swings and irritability
- Issues handling stress
- Extreme impatience
- Takes big risks regardless of safety or consequence
- Trouble focusing and paying attention
- Easily distracted
- Consistently losing items
Can PCOS Cause ADHD Symptoms?
Research shows that women with PCOS often experience worsened symptoms of ADHD and are, in general, more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than other women. Our hormones play a key role in our behavior management, so imbalances in the endocrine system can affect the same parts of the brain that ADHD does.
This can aggravate all of your ADHD symptoms, but it can specifically increase fatigue, irritability, and sleeping difficulties. These worsening side effects can also put Cysters at a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Can a Mother’s PCOS Increase the Risk of ADHD in Children?
Research seems to show that mothers with PCOS are much more likely to have children with ADHD than a mother without the disorder. This is especially evident in girls! Doctors think this may be because of high androgen levels in the body of a mother with PCOS. This exposure could be the reason children born to mothers with PCOS are 2.3 times more likely to have ADHD than a child born in another circumstance.
Factors That Contribute To The Link Between ADHD And PCOS
It seems like the main factor that could link ADHD and PCOS is hormone imbalance. Both estrogen and progesterone (the female sex hormones) influence dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals are often the culprits of ADHD symptoms.
Low dopamine and serotonin as a result of fluctuating estrogen and progesterone can negatively impact cognitive functioning—including energy, memory, learning, and emotional regulation. Luckily, restoring natural hormone balance can help relieve ADHD and PCOS symptoms.
Insulin resistance could be another contributor to worsening ADHD symptoms in Cysters. When you’re insulin resistant, your body can’t properly process glucose. Instead of the glucose getting absorbed into the cells and converting to energy, it’s absorbed into the body and turns to fat and enters your bloodstream. Of course, that’s how we get high blood sugar!
Rises and drops in blood sugar also affect the brain, including serotonin and dopamine production. Often, these fluctuations will cause fatigue and trouble focusing, which are two common challenges for people with ADHD. For insulin resistance treatments, check out this episode of A Cyster and her Mister podcast.
Compromised Gut Health
Our gut health actually is a big contributor to proper serotonin production in our brands. Without the right balance of bacteria, your body may not make enough serotonin to maintain a healthy brain. We see a similar relationship between PCOS symptoms and gut health, so this could be a link between the two disorders!
Inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, added sugars, and food dyes can cause an autoimmune response in your body. This is when your immune system attacks healthy cells, misinterpreting the inflammatory foods as toxins.
A little bit of inflammation when you’re fighting an illness isn’t a big deal, but chronic inflammation can lower your immune system, trigger weight gain, worsen gut health, cause chronic pain, and aggravate ADHD and PCOS symptoms. If you think you may be struggling with inflammation, hear about the signs of inflammation on my podcast. And, learn more about going dairy-and gluten-free on the blog.
We all get cranky if we don’t get enough sleep. This is especially true for people with ADHD and PCOS. Since our brain health is already volatile due to hormone imbalance, poor sleep can just add to it. Plus, low-quality sleep has also been shown to worsen insulin resistance. All this means getting better sleep is super important to maintain your health and relieve symptoms of ADHD and PCOS.
Nutrient deficiencies can cause unpleasant symptoms in anyone, but women with ADHD and PCOS may have specific problems maintaining the right levels of vitamins and nutrients. (Like omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium.) On top of that, cravings and impulse problems from PCOS and ADHD may mean you’re putting a lot of foods in your body that are hurting you rather than helping you.
You can naturally reverse symptoms of PCOS with the right diet and supplements. As a nutritionist who specializes in PCOS, I recommend an anti-inflammatory gluten- and dairy-free diet. Since PCOS can worsen symptoms of ADHD, as you heal your PCOS, you’ll likely see improvements in your ADHD as well. For meal plans and support, download The Cysterhood App.
The final possible link between PCOS and ADHD is chronic stress. Cortisol is our stress hormone and it can be overproduced in response to inflammation, crappy sleep, poor gut health, improper diet, and other hormone imbalances. (Yes, everything we’ve discussed so far!)
These high levels of cortisol can then snowball into cognitive problems, insulin resistance, gut problems, chronic inflammation, and other hormone imbalances. This jump-starts a vicious stress cycle that’s hard to break! Prioritizing self-care and positive lifestyle changes can make all the difference to reduce your PCOS and ADHD symptoms and regain healthy cognitive functioning.
There is a link between PCOS and ADHD, which can worsen the symptoms of both disorders.
Though living with ADHD or PCOS (or both) has its challenges, you can manage your symptoms naturally and reach all your health goals. I was able to reverse my PCOS and reclaim my life using the right diet, exercises, and mindset shifts, and I want to help you too using The Cysterhood App, the blog, and the Cyster and Her Mister podcast. Check out all the content and let’s heal together!