PCOS for women with binge eating disorder

Polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS, is very common in women, particularly those who suffer with compulsive or binge eating disorders and are struggling with obesity.

The signs and symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome begin for some people as soon after they start having periods. However, the link between PCOS and obesity is complicated. With additional complexity for those who are also suffering with a binge or compulsive eating disorder.

Considering this impacts 5-10% of women of reproductive age, and is one of the most common hormonal disorders, we need to continue to promote awareness of PCOS to spot the early warning signs and support treatment options.

What are the first signs of PCOS?

The signs and symptoms can go unnoticed for many women and are often first detected once a woman struggles to get pregnant. 

Other common symptoms include: irregular periods or no periods at all, irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate, excessive hair, usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks, weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

Some of these first signs are more likely to be dismissed or continue to go unnoticed in women struggling with a binge or compulsive eating disorder because they are accustomed to experiencing these symptoms. And, we often assume it is connected to the eating disorder.

How serious is PCOS for binge or compulsive eaters?

Those with PCOS often experience other serious health conditions that go beyond fertility issues. About half of all PCOS sufferers are overweight and obesity increases the risk of a fatty liver, hypertension, high cholesterol and elevated levels of insulin.

These include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, problems with the heart and blood vessels, and uterine cancer. For those struggling with binge or compulsive eating this risk may increase. 

It is often sugary or fatty foods which people choose to binge or overeat, as part of their illness. Hence, substantial weight gain may be expected, while PCOS may not even be considered as one of the causes.

What are the main causes of PCOS?

Those with PCOS produce too much insulin, or the insulin they produce does not work as it should. The inability of insulin to function normally is one reason why some PCOS sufferers tend to gain weight or have a hard time losing weight.

This means some of your weight gain may not solely be connected to your binge or compulsive eating. It can often be a chicken and egg scenario; women affected by obesity have a greater risk for PCOS and women with PCOS have a greater risk for obesity. 

Instead of putting it off or blaming your binge eating. It could be worth getting checked out by your GP. 

Can PCOS go away?

Like any chronic illness it can be controlled. Losing weight, quitting smoking and using medications to control hormones are all important parts of treatment for PCOS.

For binge or compulsive eaters improving the body’s use of insulin may simply not be enough. For women with PCOS and binge or compulsive eating, keeping a healthy diet that includes complex carbohydrates and regular exercise is important. However, understanding your emotions or emotional eating may have more of an impact, especially if you already experiencing some of these signs and symptoms.

Remember early detection decreases the risk of long-term complications. However, it may also improve the weight loss or gain symptoms. 

If you are worried or concerned please seek advice from your GP and don’t be afraid to ask for further investigations or to be tested. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London SE1 & NW3

Written by Marteka Swaby

London SE1 & NW3

Marteka has over 15 years experience improving emotional wellbeing. She has worked in many of the UK's largest NHS Mental Health Trusts. Psychodynamic Psychotherapist specialising in compulsive & emotional eating disorders she is currently working in private practice within eating disorders

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