Can thyroid problems lead to the development of depression? Unfortunately, there is a known link between thyroid, depression, and anxiety. Thyroid disorders can contribute to mental health conditions and mood problems. There are two majorly recognized thyroid conditions, which are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause anxiety, and an underperforming thyroid (hypothyroidism) can trigger depression. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated twenty million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and up to sixty percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. They also show that women are five times to eight times more likely than men to develop thyroid problems and one in eight women will have a thyroid disorder at some point in her life.
What Is the Thyroid and What Does It Do?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that produces hormones that help to regulate many of the body’s functions. The thyroid is a vital part of the endocrine system, which is made up of a network of glands that create and release hormones. Located at the front of the neck, under the voice box, the thyroid gland releases a steady flow of thyroid hormones throughout the body, impacting the body’s metabolism and development. As part of the endocrine system, it plays an important role in the way the body breaks down food and converts it to energy. This affects processes in the body, such as temperature regulation, heart rate, the effectiveness of burning calories, menstrual cycles, cholesterol levels, breathing, and many other functions. The thyroid utilizes iodine, which is found in food and makes three hormones. These hormones are triiodothyronine, also called T3, tetraiodothyronine also called thyroxine or T4, and calcitonin. Too much or too little of these hormones can seriously mess with the body’s systems. Some of the most common thyroid disorders are goiters, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, solitary thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and thyroiditis.
Your thyroid plays a critical role when regulating mood and emotion. In addition, if your thyroid is not producing enough of the hormones your body needs then bodily functions can be affected, which can leave you feeling rundown. Physical symptoms of an underperforming thyroid can include:
- Trouble Concentrating
- Slow Heart Rate
- Sensitivity to Cold
- Joint or Muscle Pain
- Tingling in Hands and Feet
- Weight Gain
- Dryness of Skin
- Brittle or Thick Nails
- Hair Thinning or Loss
- Menstrual Period Changes
Depression is associated with hypothyroidism, as the thyroid condition creates an imbalance of hormones in the body that can lead to depression symptoms. Thankfully hypothyroidism and depression can be improved with proper treatment. This particular thyroid disease can easily be diagnosed through a simple blood test that checks your thyroid hormone levels. However, keep in mind that your doctor may not instantly make the connection that your depression is due to low thyroid levels. So, it may be worth mentioning in an appointment if you have any of these symptoms and suspect that you may have a problem with your thyroid.
Your Thyroid and Depression
Even though depression has been linked to thyroid problems and hypothyroidism, the exact mechanisms underlying the interactions between this organ and mental health have not been fully discovered. The research suggests that in hypothyroidism, TSH levels are not as responsive to TRH, or thyrotropin-releasing hormone, which stimulates the TSH to do its job. TSH, or thyroid-stimulating hormone, is a pituitary hormone that triggers the thyroid gland to produce the hormones thyroxine (T4 or tetraiodothyronine) and triiodothyronine (T3) that regulate bodily functions.
Since these hormones regulate the way your body uses energy, a lack of these hormones can reduce the amount of energy the body has to work properly. Thyroid problems can also affect you physically and make you feel poorly overall. Energy levels and physical strength plays a major role in depression and the state of people’s overall mental health. Having lower energy levels can affect your cognition and brain functioning, which can contribute to feelings of depression. When you feel physically run down, you are less likely to be able to take care of yourself in the way you need, such as cooking healthy food and exercising. You may also struggle with everyday activities, like work and school and socialization, and may find yourself staying at home more, which can lead to feelings of isolation. All of these factors can cause depression or exacerbate your existing depression.
Treatment of Thyroid Problems and Depression
After testing your thyroid levels and detecting an imbalance, your doctor will review the results with you and the impacts on your mental health. If you feel you are experiencing depression directly related to an improperly functioning thyroid, your doctor will be able to determine the best course of treatment moving forward. Thyroid medication is the usual course for those with some type of thyroid disease, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
If you have hypothyroidism, thyroid medication can either boost the hormones produced or replace those hormones entirely. The intention of prescribing thyroid medication is to regulate these hormones and get them back to a normal level to restore healthy bodily functions. If you are struggling with depression then it may also reduce or completely stop your depression by regulating thyroid hormones that can cause depression. However, if thyroid medicine alone is not enough and your symptoms of depression do not go away then your doctor may consider antidepressants, such as SSRIs. SSRIs or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the typical class of antidepressants that are used to treat depression. Talk therapy may also be added into the course of treatment for the maximum benefits.
Can Thyroid Medicine Cause Depression?
The short and simple answer is no, there is no research that supports thyroid medicine causing thyroid depression. Those who are being treated for hypothyroidism with thyroid medicine can develop depression, but this stems from the hypothyroidism and not the medication itself. However, research does suggest that medication that treats depression can lower the hormone levels that the thyroid produces and trigger symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Need Help for Depression?
If you are looking for therapy services for mental health concerns, or if you have any questions regarding our services, call Gemini Health today! Our highly skilled mental health professionals are experienced in treating various mental and behavioral health concerns. They offer both individual and group therapy. Plus, there are no wait times to join groups. Call (301) 363-1063 and speak to our staff to schedule your appointment today!