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Individuals with PCOS are 4x more likely to have an eating disorder[1] with increased prevalence of binge eating disorder of 18%, night eating syndrome of 13%, bulimia nervosa of 5-6% and anorexia nervosa of 1%.[2],[3]

In this article we explore the link between PCOS and eating disorders.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a condition whereby individuals feel like they’re unable to stop eating and often involves eating much larger than usual amounts of food followed by cycles of restricting or severely cutting back on eating.[4]

Night eating syndrome (NES) is a condition that combines overeating at night with sleep problems, where at least a quarter of daily calories are consumed after dinner.[5]

Bulimia nervosa (BN) is a condition that combines binge eating with “purging” to eliminate the extra calories in an unhealthy way such as vomiting or misusing laxatives.[6]

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a condition whereby the individual obsesses about food or weight and can involve a distorted body image.[7]

PCOS is associated with elevated levels of androgens[8], sex hormones that are produced in the ovaries, start at puberty and play a key role in reproductive health.[9] 

Find out more about PCOS and Androgen Excess.

  • Increased circulating androgens disrupts the way that adipose tissue, the body fat or connective tissue that extends throughout your body,[10] metabolizes glucose;[11]

  • The adipose tissue produces more leptin,[12] a hormone that causes you to feel hungry in efforts to maintain enough fat stores for long-term health;[13]

  • The increase in leptin interferes with appropriate appetite regulation;[14]

  • Disrupted appetite regulation increases the risk for binge eating.[15]

Another key factor in the increased risk for eating disorders is likely to be low self-confidence, as a result of, or exacerbated by, changes in appearance related to the PCOS condition.

Unfortunately, individuals with PCOS can often be instructed by clinical professionals to lose weight without recognizing how difficult it is for them to maintain or lose weight due to their condition.  The failure to meet weight loss goals despite intense diet and exercise can trigger or increase the risk of disordered eating.[16]

Eating disorders are a result of a complex interaction of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors.[17]  Risk factors for eating disorders include:[18]

  • Family history;

  • Other mental health issues;

  • Dieting and starvation;

  • A history of weight bullying; and

  • Stress.


Reviewed by Dr. K, one of Neuraura’s friends and trusted advisors.


a.ray was born based on the core beliefs that care should and need to be holistic, inclusive and accessible. Which means we are building a fully virtual healing platform for individuals affected by eating disorders. To the fighters and survivors: you are our reason to be and together we will create the a.ray way.


Want to learn more about mental health conditions related to PCOS?  Check out the sections on anxiety, depression and suicide.

Complications – Mental Health

PCOS and Eating Disorders

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