Thyroid disease can mess with your mind. It can manifest as an assortment of mental disorders, can leave you sleep-deprived, and can lay waste to your energy levels and cognitive abilities. Overt hypothyroidism can be linked with anxiety, depression, mania and other psychiatric disorders. Severe hyperthyroidism may trigger delirium.
Autonomic dysfunction, hyperactivity and tension are just a few of the symptoms that can be brought on by hypothyroidism. They may seem to be emotionally triggered but they are in fact brought on by problems with the endocrine system.
When hyperthyroidism is untreated for an extended time, depression can be the result due to exhausted noradrenergic transmission (depletion of norepinephrine). This type of exhaustion can happen to hyperthyroid patients who have bipolar disorder.
Overactivity of the adrenergic system — pertaining to adrenaline (epinephrine) or noradrenaline (norepinephrine) — plays a key role in the mental symptoms that appear with hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism has a different effect on mental function. Cognition decreases, the ability to think becomes slower, as does motor ability. Tiredness and sleepiness increase. Subclinical hypothyroidism can affect mood, increasing incidence of bipolar episodes, and higher risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Thyroid hormone replacement of T4 and often T3 corrects most mental symptoms, though it does not work in every case. Proper treatment of the condition, though, should cause mental symptoms to disappear.
Symptoms of thyroid disease can look like mental or psychological dysfunction, or menopause. Why menopause? Because many women will suffer from symptoms like cognitive dysfunction (brain fog), emotional extremes, anxiety and depresssion.
When the wrong diagnosis is being pursued, the patient is doomed to experience worsening symptoms of thyroid disease. Hypothyroidism is often missed or misdiagnosed. It's not unusual for women to be diagnosed instead with reproductive health problems that they don't have, or that are not the source of the problem but are instead symptoms.
Some women have undergone hysterectomies because their doctors have mistakenly thought the problem was early menopause, menstrual irregularities particularly if they were having heavy or irregular menstrual periods. Doctors may have even put the woman on estrogen replacement thinking they were treating the source of the problem.
When such a misdiagnosis takes place, a woman's symptoms will only get worse. This happens to millions of women, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). This is because both hypothyroidism and menopause can cause depression, fatigue, problems with mood and sleep issues.
According to Medicinenet.com, some doctors display an age-old bias against "women's troubles". Rather than assuming that there's a physical disease that needs to be identified and treated, some doctors still assume that it's just the way women are. They chalk up symptoms to women being the weaker sex, prone to anxiety, depression and weakness.
So what's a tired, depressed woman to do?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take. If your doctor doesn't suggest testing for hypothyroidism, tell your doctor you'd like this possibility looked into. Have your TSH evaluated with a blood sample.
Could You Have a Thyroid Problem? Prevention.com. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2015.
Thyroid Disease & Menopause. Medicinenet.com. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2015.
Thyroid Disease and Mental Disorders: Cause and Effect or Only comorbidity? Medscape.com. Retrieved Jan. 22, 2015.
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Reviewed January 23, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN