While it may surprise some, the link between hypothyroidism and depression can be a very real and detrimental issue. Read on to learn what you need to know to be prepared if you or a loved one suffers from depression due to hypothyroidism.
The Hypothyroidism And Depression Connection
Grief, sadness, and feeling depressed are normal emotions that anyone can experience at any age. These emotions can be brought on by a number of events throughout our lifetimes. We may feel depressed for a while and then the grief and sadness will start to lift. Before we know it, we get back on track. Most of us have been there a time or two!
Clinical depression is something completely different. It is a medical condition that involves a much longer period of overwhelming sadness that can be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Losing interest in things or activities that used to bring you joy and happiness. For example, if you once enjoyed painting but, now you have no desire whatsoever to pick up a paintbrush.
- Behavioral changes due to feelings of agitation, discontent, and/or hopelessness
- Crying excessively
- Changes in your sleeping patterns such as experiencing symptoms of insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Changes in your appetite; most common is loss of appetite
- Constant fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low self esteem
- Physical changes may become visible on your face such as constant dark circles which can leave your eyes looking slightly sunken in.
- Social anxiety; sometimes severe
- Thoughts of suicide
If you have experienced any of these symptoms, please know you are not alone. According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from clinical depression.
In addition, if you feel that you may be suffering from clinical depression, please speak with your primary care physician. Read on to learn more about depression and its connection to hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism And Depression: The Connection
Statistics show that 50% of patients with thyroid disorders are misdiagnosed.
Within the medical field, we are learning something new everyday. But, one thing that remains constant is that the symptoms of various medical conditions can mimic other medical conditions – which is one reason why patients become misdiagnosed on occasion. One example is clinical depression and hypothyroidism. These two medical conditions can mimic each other almost exactly.
Since depression is a symptom of hypothyroidism (and other medical conditions), a patient may end up with an incomplete diagnosis. For example, if a patient is experiencing symptoms of depression and they seek out a medical diagnosis and/or treatment for their depression, they are (often times) prescribed an antidepressant for their depression and sent home without any extensive medical testing performed for any potential underlying causes.
While the prescribed antidepressant may treat the symptoms of their depression, the underlying medical condition that causes their depression in the first place, remains untreated.
Anyone who suffers from depression and/or any other psychiatric disorders should always receive a complete medical workup to determine any potential underlying causes such as hypothyroidism. Studies have shown that a great number of patients that suffer from clinical depression also have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
Other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, lupus, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis (MS) may also cause depression.
Why Complete Medical Workups Are Important
If you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, please talk to your primary care physician about the necessary tests to check your thyroid functions. Here’s why it is so important.
Hypothyroidism, if left untreated, can cause damage to your body. According to Mayo Clinic: advanced hypothyroidism, known as myxedema, is rare, but when it occurs it can be life-threatening. Signs and symptoms include low blood pressure, decreased breathing, decreased body temperature, unresponsiveness and even coma. In extreme cases, myxedema can be fatal.
Other complications due to untreated hypothyroidism may include: (source)
- Goiter – constant stimulation of your thyroid to release more hormones may cause the thyroid gland to become enlarged.
- Heart Problems – heart disease, enlarged heart, and heart failure
- Peripheral neuropathy – Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy may include pain, numbness, and tingling in the area affected by the nerve damage. It may also cause muscle weakness or loss of muscle control.
- Infertility – Low levels of thyroid hormone can interfere with ovulation, which impairs fertility.
- Birth defects – Babies born to women with untreated thyroid disease may have a higher risk of birth defects than babies born to healthy mothers. These children are also more prone to serious intellectual and developmental problems.
Anyone can develop a thyroid disorder at any age, however, you are at an increased risk if any of the following pertains to you: (source)
- Are a woman older than age 60
- Have an autoimmune disease
- Have a family history of thyroid disease
- Have other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and/or a chronic inflammatory condition
- Have been treated with radioactive iodine or antithyroid medications
- Received radiation to your neck or upper chest
- Have had thyroid surgery (partial thyroidectomy)
- Have been pregnant or delivered a baby within the past six months
In closing, once more, I urge you to consider being tested for an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) if you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression. If you have any questions or concerns, all of us here at Thyroid Symptoms are here for you.