Cognitive-behavioral therapy improves weight loss and quality of life in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a pilot randomized clinical trial

Laura G. Cooney, Lauren W. Milman, Liisa Hantsoo, Sara Kornfield, Mary D. Sammel, Kelly C. Allison, C. Neill Epperson, Anuja Dokras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To compare the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and lifestyle modification (LS) versus LS alone on weight, depressive and anxiety symptoms, and stress response in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), overweight/obesity, and depressive symptoms. Design: A 16-week pilot randomized clinical trial. Setting: Tertiary-care PCOS center. Patient(s): Overweight/obese women with PCOS and depressive symptoms. Intervention(s): Weekly CBT (n = 7) or contact only/no therapy (n = 8) for 8 weeks. Both groups received weekly LS for 16 weeks. Main Outcome Measure(s): Changes in weight, depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale [CES-D]), anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory [STAI]), quality of life (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Health-Related Quality of Life Questionnaire [PCOSQ]), laboratory tests, and response to a Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Result(s): The CBT+LS group lost more weekly weight (−0.35 kg/wk vs. −0.16 kg/wk) compared with the LS group. Overall, the CBT+LS group lost 3.2 kg versus 1.8 kg for the LS group. The CBT+LS group had greater improvement in PCOSQ at 8 weeks (+3.7 vs. +1.2 points). In the overall cohort, STAI and CES-D decreased by −0.27 points per week and −0.31 points/wk, respectfully, and total and free T decreased at week 8. Heart rate response to TSST was lower at 15 minutes after stressor in the CBT+LS group. Conclusion(s): Weekly CBT+LS for 8 weeks compared with LS alone resulted in significant weight loss and improved quality of life in overweight/obese women with PCOS and depressive symptoms. These interventions were associated with a decreased autonomic response to a laboratory stressor, suggesting a potential link between CBT, weight loss, and modulation of the stress response. Clinical Trial Registration Number: NCT01899001.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-171.e1
JournalFertility and sterility
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • CBT
  • PCOS
  • depression
  • nutrition
  • weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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