The thyroid can be involved with some important mental health issues, but do you even know where yours is?
January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and that allows more women all over the world to learn more about their thyroids. The thyroid is an endocrine gland in the neck that is involved in metabolism and energy, according to MedlinePlus.
Mary Shomon, a thyroid patient advocate and author, said that sometimes thyroid issues can be side effects of treatments for mental disorders.
For example, she said people with bipolar disorder who take lithium might develop hypothyroidism. This is an underactive thyroid and can cause symptoms like depression, fatigue and weight gain.
“Various types of mental health symptoms can be directly traceable and trackable to thyroid issues,” Shomon said.
For example, she said Graves' disease or hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid, can cause anxiety and panic attacks. She added that some people are diagnosed incorrectly with panic disorder.
“It turns out that once their thyroid is properly treated, the panic attacks and the anxiety go away,” Shomon said.
Anorexia can also be confused with thyroid issues, since weight loss can be a symptom of hyperthyroidism. Other issues with hypothyroidism are mood issues and depression, and sometimes anxiety.
“There’s actually some physicians who consider it a standard practice, before they will put anyone on an antidepressant, to do a complete thyroid evaluation,” Shomon said.
Shomon herself was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which can cause hypothyroidism, in 1995.
“It took a number of doctor visits for them to get the proper diagnosis, because when you have symptoms like fatigue and depression and weight gain, the tendency is for patients and doctors to assume that they are lifestyle-related,” Shomon said.
“You’ll hear a lot of excuses for why people feel these symptoms, but the reality is that it’s oftentimes an undiagnosed thyroid condition,” she added.
She was around 30 when she was diagnosed, but she said it’s more common in women over 50 and during increased hormonal changes, like during pregnancy and menopause.