Thyroid function disorders can affect your mood in many ways. Check out some of them below!

How does thyroid disease affect mood?
Elena Sanz

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz the October 27, 2021.

Last update: October 27, 2021

The thyroid is a small gland located in the neck that is shaped like a butterfly. It is responsible for producing, storing and sending hormones vital for the functioning of your body. An alteration during the process can have great repercussions in between. Today we are talking about the relationship between thyroid disease and mood.

Most people are aware that the thyroid affects metabolism. Few know that it also controls the speed of heart rhythms. Almost no one knows how thyroid disease affects mood. The relationship is very complex, but in the next few lines we will explain it to you with ideas that are easy to assimilate.

Thyroid disease and mood

Thyroid diseases are very varied. As this organ is in charge of controlling metabolism, the repercussion of these pathologies is multisystemic.

Before we dive into how thyroid disease affects mood, we must first clear up some general ideas. Thyroid disease, or thyroid diseases, are known to a group of conditions that develop when there is an alteration in the gland. The most common are the following:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid).
  • Thyroid cancer.
  • Nodules or lumps in the gland.


Inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis) can also be counted among the common conditions. Unless we refer to a particular condition, when we refer to the relationship between the thyroid and mood we will do so considering all of them.

However, the causal relationship between thyroid disease and mood swings has been known for about 200 years. Caleb Hillier Parry, in 1825, was one of the first to document nerve damage in thyroid patients. Today there is a medical convention that thyroid disorders affect mood. Let’s see some specific examples.

Depression

According to a Article published in 2012 in Journal of Thyroid Research, thyroid disease develops a series of neuropsychiatric manifestations in between. Depression is one of the most common, which can affect between 31% and 69% of patients (fluctuates with age and other variables).

Thyroid disease depression is also accompanied by irritability, general dysphoria, emotional lability, and even impaired concentration. Cases of depression in subclinical diagnoses of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are less frequent, so these are related to the severity of the diagnosis.

It is not uncommon for patients to seek help treating depression and discover in the process that they have a thyroid disorder. According to the American Thyroid Association, up to 60% of those affected are unaware that they suffer from this condition.

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The evidence notes that depression and thyroid mood swings can also develop during pregnancy. These manifest themselves during and after pregnancy, which can condition the mother’s relationship with her child.

Anxiety

Anxiety is another problem associated with thyroid disorders. A study published in Social Psychiatric and Psychiatric Epidemiology in 2015 found a relationship between untreated hypothyroidism with the development of anxiety episodes.

It is for this reason that some experts have found a link between panic attack patients with thyroid disease and anxiety. As the evidence, increased anxiety also occurs in subclinical diagnoses of hypo and hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid disease anxiety is a reality, one that affects patients regardless of its severity (although it is greater in severe cases). For all this, specialists encourage thyroid function tests to be performed in patients suffering from social phobia, panic disorders and generalized anxiety disorder.



Cognitive impairment

When thyroid disease coincides with advanced age, it can be difficult to determine its influence on cognitive decline.

Another of the nodes of the relationship between thyroid disease and mood is found in cognitive impairment. The research indicate that both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are associated with impaired cognitive function. However, the latter includes a greater number of cases of risk of dementia.

This thesis is something supported by others studies about. Most cases of cognitive impairment are reversible, although cases of dementia are not. For instance, there is evidence that there is a relationship between thyroid function and Alzheimer’s disease.

At this point, you must remember the percentage of patients who are unaware that they suffer from a thyroid disorder: 60%. Although of course not all cases can be explained in this way, many of the diagnoses of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, among other conditions, develop by not treating an alteration in thyroid function.

Why does thyroid disease affect mood?

That thyroid disease affects mood is supported by scientific evidence. The severity of the diagnosis largely determines the manifestation, as well as the type of condition itself. But how does thyroid function regulate our mood?

There is a great debate on this, one that is far from over. Some researchers believe that the interactions of the thyroid systems and some neurotransmitters (norepinephrine and serotonin) may play a key role in this regard.

All this without mentioning how thyroid hormones interact with other neurotransmitter systems. For example, post-receptor processes of dopamine. As you probably know, dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are essential agents in regulating our mood.

If you frequently suffer from anxiety, depression, irritability, cognitive impairment, and more, it would be good to rule out a possible thyroid function disorder. Do this especially if you develop these episodes with other classic symptoms associated with the thyroid (weight gain, fatigue, constipation, sensitivity to cold, and so on).

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