If you’re one of the 10% of American women diagnosed with endometriosis, chances are good you already know that this chronic condition, in which the lining of your uterus or endometrium grows outside your womb, can trigger painful periods and other physical symptoms, including infertility.
But did you know that endometriosis can also negatively affect your mental health? In fact, women with endometriosis are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition.
You don’t have to struggle alone. Board-certified OB/GYN Daniel S. Kushner, MD, has extensive experience diagnosing and treating endometriosis for patients in White Plains and Queens, New York. Here’s what you need to know about the link between endometriosis and mental health.
Is there a link between endometriosis and mental health?
Yes. Chronic pain, heavy periods, pain during sex, and fertility issues are most common symptoms of endometriosis and the ones that typically lead to a medical diagnosis.
Researchers have studied these side effects and how to manage them, but scientists are just beginning to understand how living with endometriosis affects your mental health. What they’ve found isn’t surprising.
Multiple studies show that when you have chronic pain related to endometriosis, your quality of life decreases, so you feel depressed or anxious. These mood issues can cause you to experience more pain, creating an unpleasant cycle.
This makes sense when you consider that having endometriosis means you can’t predict how you’ll feel from day to day. Carrying out your regular activities can be difficult, making you feel angry, sad, frustrated, anxious, and sometimes desperate to change your situation.
Needing to cancel important plans or skipping events with family and friends can cause you to feel like your endometriosis controls you and your life, contributing to feelings of isolation, disappointment, and low moods. One survey found that about 50% of women with endometriosis experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings related to their gynecological condition.
If you have endometriosis and you are experiencing any mental health challenges, don’t wait to talk to your provider. Dr. Kushner can help you manage your symptoms and feel better, both physically and mentally.
Do all women with endometriosis have mental health struggles?
Not necessarily. Having endometriosis increases your overall risk of developing a mental health disease. And women with pre-existing mental health disorders have a greater risk of struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders if they’re diagnosed with endometriosis.
But not all women with endometriosis are diagnosed with a mental health condition. Researchers believe a combination of endometriosis-related factors work together to cause the development of anxiety or depression, including:
- Presence of chronic pelvic pain
- Having pain during sex
- Experiencing infertility
- The amount of time it takes to get diagnosed
- Your relationship status and whether your partner is supportive
- Your self-esteem
Your hormone levels also play a role in how endometriosis can affect your mental health. The hormone estrogen aids in many important bodily functions, including regulating your menstrual cycle. Women with endometriosis often have higher-than-normal estrogen levels, which can cause mood swings, anger, irritability, and frustration.
Is there help for endometriosis?
Yes! Dr. Kushner specializes in diagnosing and treating endometriosis. A successful treatment plan begins with an accurate diagnosis, and to verify your condition, Dr. Kushner uses your symptoms, a physical exam, your medical history, and frequently a test called ultrasonography, which detects abnormalities.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, Dr. Kushner may recommend one or more treatment options. Surgery is usually a last resort for women with severe endometriosis or those who are struggling with infertility.
While your customized treatment plan is based on your specific needs, Dr. Kushner generally begins treatment using the most conservative approaches. Some of the treatment options for endometriosis include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Hormonal birth control pills
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone
- Extended-cycle birth control (such as the birth control shot)
- Endometrial ablation
To learn more about the link between endometriosis and mental health, or for endometriosis treatment so you feel better, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kushner today by calling the New York office nearest you or requesting an appointment online.