Can my thyroid condition affect my mental health?

A thyroid imbalance can cause emotional lows similar to those of depression and anxiety
Can my thyroid condition affect my mental health?

What is the thyroid?

The thyroid gland, located in the neck region, produces a set of hormones called thyroid hormones. These hormones help maintain the body's metabolic rate and synthesize proteins. An imbalance in thyroid secretion can impact a person’s physical health as well as their mental and emotional health.

Issues that can affect the thyroid gland include:

1. Hypothyroidism, or insufficient secretion of the thyroid hormone (this is the most common thyroid issue faced by Indians, both men and women)

2. Hyperthyroidism, or over-secretion of thyroid hormones

3. Thyroid cancer

4. Goiter (enlargement of thyroid gland)

Of these, thyroid imbalance issues (hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism), are most common, and affect mostly women.

A thyroid imbalance can cause emotional lows similar to that of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Therefore, any diagnosis of a mental illness would first need to be ruled out for thyroid issues.

Also read: Physical health conditions that mimic depression

How are thyroid issues and mental health connected?

1. Persons with hypothyroidism have symptoms similar to that of depression - feeling low, tired, difficulty in concentration and making decisions, loss of appetite and weight gain. Individuals with hyperthyroidism experience symptoms similar to those of anxiety, such as high blood pressure and high heart rate.   

2. Thyroid imbalance can also cause physical changes in a woman’s body - weight gain, excess facial hair or protruding eyes, which can then lead to body image issues.

If you have chronic hyperthyroidism, you may experience

  • Dysphoria (general dissatisfaction with life)

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Inability to concentrate

If you have hypothyroidism, you may experience:

  • Feeling low and sad

  • Brain fog

  • Lack of interest in activities

  • Feeling sluggish, lethargic

Experts suggest that any psychiatric treatment should be done either after thyroid issues are treated or simultaneously with thyroid replacement.

Therefore, it is advisable to check your thyroid before proceeding with any kind of psychiatric treatment, or to treat the two conditions in tandem.

Coping with the condition: Self-care

Thyroid imbalance is a long-term condition that requires systematic lifestyle changes along with treatment and medication. Although treatment does help with the psychological aspects of the illness, it is possible that the person may still feel emotional highs and lows. In such situations, the person can:

  • Talk to their treating doctor about the changes in mood

  • Talk to someone they trust

  • Do physical exercise or yoga

  • Join a support groups

  • Consider consulting a mental health professional

This content has been created with inputs from psychiatrist Dr Sandip Deshpande, obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Aruna Muralidhar,  and psychologist Garima Srivastava.

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