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Mental Health and the Thyroid

Mental health and the thyroid

Researchers are now beginning to see possible links between mental health and the function of the thyroid.

Worldwide, it is estimated that up to 300 million individuals suffer from some type of thyroid disorder. Over 15 million cases have been documented here in the United States and thyroid dysfunction is a much more prevalent in women than in men. Interestingly, researchers are now beginning to see possible links between mental health and the function of the thyroid.

The thyroid is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland that sits at the base of your throat. It performs the important task of regulating your basal metabolic rate - which is the speed at which your body burns food for energy. When everything is working well, the thyroid works with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to keep the levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) at a proper balance within your body.

When things go wrong and too much TSH collects in the blood, one is said to have hypothyroidism which accounts for 80% of most thyroid dysfunction diagnoses. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, cold intolerances, weight gain, brain fog, emotional extremes, anxiety, depression, constipation as well as muscle and joint pain.

As you can see from the symptoms listed above, several of the symptoms are direct overlays to mental health.

While there is not enough clinical evidence at this time to associate TSH levels with psychiatric symptoms or to recommend T4 for depressed patients, there is strong enough evidence to recommend thyroid function tests in seriously depressed patients.

To gather information about your thyroid, ask your doctor or nurse practitioner to run your complete thyroid panel through a blood draw. If you suffer from depression, before taking that serotonin reuptake inhibitor, ask your provider if a thyroid panel might be a good test to run first.

Misdiagnosis of depression when it really is a thyroid problem will only make symptoms worse, so it’s a good idea to check both boxes before deciding if it is one over the other.