Thyroid Disease and Mood: What's the Connection?

Thyroid function disorders can affect your mood in many ways - learn about some of them below!
Thyroid Disease and Mood: What's the Connection?

Last update: 03 November, 2021

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. It’s responsible for producing, storing, and sending vital hormones for the functioning of your body. A disturbance in the process can have major repercussions. Today we’ll talk about the relationship between thyroid disease and mood.

Most people are aware that the thyroid affects metabolism. Fewer people know that it also controls the speed of heart rhythms. And almost no one knows how thyroid disease affects mood. The relationship is very complex, but, in the following lines, we’ll explain it to you with easy-to-understand ideas.

Thyroid disease and mood

Thyroid disease and mood.
Thyroid diseases are very varied. As this organ is responsible for controlling metabolism, the impact of these diseases is multisystemic.

Before we go into how thyroid disease affects mood, we must first clarify some general ideas. Thyroid disease is a group of conditions that develop when there’s an alteration in the gland in question. The most common are the following:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid)
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Nodules or lumps in the gland

The inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis) is also considered to be a common condition. Unless we’re referring to a particular condition, when we refer to the relationship between the thyroid and mood we’re referring to all of them.

Having said all this, the causal relationship between thyroid disease and mood changes has been known for about 200 years. Caleb Hillier Parry, in 1825, was one of the first to document nervous disorders in thyroid patients. Today there’s a medical consensus that thyroid disorders affect mood. Let’s look at some timely examples.

Depression

According to an article published in 2012 in the Journal of Thyroid Research, thyroid disease develops a number of neuropsychiatric manifestations in between. Depression is one of the most common, which can affect between 31% and 69% of patients (fluctuates with age and other variables).

Depression due to thyroid disease is also accompanied by irritability, general dysphoria, emotional lability, and even impaired concentration. Cases of depression in subclinical diagnoses of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are less common, so these are related to the severity of the diagnosis.

It isn’t uncommon for patients to seek help for depression and discover in the process that they have a thyroid disorder. According to the American Thyroid Association, up to 60% of sufferers are unaware that they have this condition.

Evidence indicates that thyroid depression and mood swings can also develop during pregnancy. These manifest themselves during and after pregnancy, and they can affect the mother’s relationship with her child.

Anxiety

Anxiety is another problem associated with thyroid disorders. A study published in Social Psychiatric and Psychiatric Epidemiology in 2015 found a link between untreated hypothyroidism with the development of anxiety episodes.

It’s for this reason that some experts have found a link between patients suffering from panic attacks with thyroid diseases and anxiety. As the evidence points out, increased anxiety also occurs in subclinical diagnoses of hypo- and hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid disease anxiety is a reality, one that affects patients regardless of its severity (although it is greater in severe cases). For all these reasons, specialists encourage thyroid function tests for patients suffering from social phobia, panic disorders, and generalized anxiety disorder.

Another article you shouldn’t miss: 6 Health Tips to Improve Thyroid Function

Cognitive impairment

A depressed woman.
When thyroid disease coincides with advancing age, it can be difficult to determine its influence on cognitive impairment.

Another part of the relationship between thyroid disease and mood is found in cognitive impairment. Research indicates that both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are associated with impaired cognitive function. However, the latter is associated with a higher risk of dementia.

This thesis is supported by other studies. Most cases of cognitive impairment are reversible, although cases of dementia aren’t. For example, there’s evidence that there’s a link between thyroid function and Alzheimer’s disease.

At this point, we need to remember the percentage of patients who are unaware that they have a thyroid disorder: 60%. While not all cases can be explained by this pathway, many of the diagnoses of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions, develop from not treating impaired thyroid function.

Why does thyroid disease affect mood?

The fact that thyroid disease affects mood is supported by scientific evidence. The severity of the diagnosis largely determines the manifestation, as well as the type of condition itself. But how does thyroid function regulate our mood?

There’s a great debate about this, and one that is far from closed. Some researchers believe that the interactions of thyroid systems and some neurotransmitters (noradrenaline and serotonin) may play a key role.

Not to mention how thyroid hormones interact with other neurotransmitter systems. For example, dopamine post-receptor processes. As you may know, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are essential agents in regulating our mood.

If you frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, irritability, cognitive impairment, and so on, it would be good to rule out a possible thyroid function disorder. Do this especially if you develop these episodes with other classic thyroid symptoms (weight gain, fatigue, constipation, sensitivity to cold, and so on).

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