Is it depression or your thyroid?

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • In the twelve years that I've been writing about depression, I have often included the caution that it is very important to have a complete physical examination to eliminate any underlying conditions that might be causing the depression. Chief among these conditions that can cause depression is thyroid malfunction.

    A few months ago, I came down with strep throat. Simultaneously I started feeling a lump in my throat. After several doctor's appointments, I was finally diagnosed, tentatively, with thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid.

    This inflammation causes the thyroid to be overactive and release high amounts of a thyroid hormone into the bloodstream, essentially causing you to suffer from hyperthyroidism.

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    And boy, have I been suffering. (The reason I'm putting this in the present tense is that the treatment for thyroiditis is to basically just wait for it to go away, which it hasn't yet done.) I started noticing pretty early on that shortly after I felt the lump in my throat, I would be exhausted, anxious, kind of spacey and what my husband delicately referred to as "not yourself." In other words, I get seriously irritable.

    Not particularly pleasant, but on top of this I noticed that I would also have waves of depression after my throat had been painful, and my antidepressant wasn't able to combat it. That has been very hard to take. Even though I know what is causing it, it is still hard to rise above it and make myself feel normal.

    What bothers me most is the extreme fatigue which can make it virtually impossible to do anything productive, and the loss of interest in pretty much everything except watching tv and reading. It's been so long since I've been lethargic and depressed that I forgot how truly crummy it is.

    So thyroid problems can really bring on depression, or at least bring on something that feels like it. Here are some of the symptoms that are common to clinical depression and thyroid abnormalities:

    • irritability
    • trouble concentrating
    • anxiety
    • fatigue
    • a loss of interest, in general, in everything

    If you think you have clinical depression, it is essential that you get a full medical workup to eliminate thyroid abnormalities or another hidden condition. And if you are having no luck with depression treatment, it might be worth getting your thyroid tested, preferably by an endocrinologist.


    Alan Cohen, M.D. on Depression and Thyroid Disease
    The Thyroid and the Mind and Emotions/Thyroid Dysfunction and Mental Disorders

Published On: June 17, 2007