Mood Changes and the Thyroid Gland

by | Nov 29, 2011

Could your mood changes, anxiety and depression be related to the function of your thyroid gland? Doctors have found that abnormal levels of thyroid hormone can depress mood and affect memory. Mood changes could be a sign of a malfunctioning thyroid gland.                                                              
Even minor thyroid gland problems can explain some psychiatric difficulties. There are an estimated 2% of Americans thus affected – over six million people. Dr. Russell Joffe, a psychiatrist, concluded that treating people with thyroid hormones can alleviate psychiatric symptoms. He mentions that in the first part of the 20th century, the best description of clinical depression and mood changes were found in textbooks on thyroid disease, not psychiatric textbooks.
The thyroid gland can be affected by many things. Exposure to radiation and too little (or too much) iodine in the diet can affect the function of this gland. Not surprisingly, the psychiatric drug lithium and others like it can also upset the natural functioning of this gland.
Older people may have mood changes due to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. Women over 50 are more susceptible to this than men. Symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland are palpitations, sweating, anxiety and weight loss. This is a condition known as hyperthyroidism. An underactive thyroid can result in sluggishness, putting on pounds, depression and other mood changes as well as trouble remembering and difficulty concentrating. An underactive thyroid gland is known as hypothyroidism. Since the thyroid gland is responsible for maintaining the correct rate of metabolism, depression can be a direct result of this condition.
It can take a while to adjust the medication to find the correct dosage for an individual, but once this is established the depression will be handled. While finding the correct dosage, blood tests are taken every couple of months to measure the thyroid hormones in the body. Once this is established, tests are necessary once a year to ensure that the dosage is still correct.
Since the thyroid gland produces two different hormones, known as as T3 and T4, it may be necessary for a patient to receive synthetic versions of both these hormones to find the correct balance that handles the depression.
Psychiatrist Jennifer Davis admits that thyroid problems are often misdiagnosed as psychiatric illness.
When a person’s thyroid hormone levels are not obviously in a low range, he or she may simply be given a psychiatric label and put on a dangerous antipsychotic or antidepressant. And to further complicate matters, there seems to be no recognized standard of what normal thyroid levels should be.
Even bipolar disorder has been traced to thyroid problems. Unfortunately, Lithium is one of the psychiatric drugs often used to treat this condition. Lithium itself can alter the function of the thyroid gland, triggering a condition known as Grave’s disease. This condition results in an overproduction of thyroid hormones.
People diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses are advised to make sure their condition is not due to a physical problem such as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Depression and other mood changes might be treatable with thyroid hormones in the hands of a competent medical (not psychiatric) doctor.


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