How moods and emotions can be affected by your thyroid

on Wed 7 Dec

This blog post first appeared on Dr Mark Vanderpump's own blog in January 2016. We are reproducing it here with his kind permission


A healthy thyroid plays a vital part in brain chemistry, so we should not be surprised that a thyroid disorder can cause unpredictable mood changes. For example those with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can suddenly feel tense and anxious. They may experience panic attacks, impatience, be overactive and have an exaggerated sensitivity to noise.


If you have an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) you may feel stressed and overwhelmed and experience depression, tearfulness, and loss of appetite. Overall you may feel a progressive loss of initiative, a dulling of personality and you may encounter memory problems, difficulty in concentration, muddled thinking and a lack of interest or mental alertness.


Unfortunately hypothyroidism medication is slow acting and it can take months before all symptoms are fully improved - which in itself can make people feel low.


In both thyroid disorders you may also suffer from mood swings or short temper and difficulties in sleeping. Generally the more severe the thyroid disease the more severe the mood changes.


All this is caused either by abnormal or rapidly changing thyroid levels or can be a side effect of treatment.  For example, if you have hyperthyroidism and have been prescribed beta blockers to slow down your heart rate this can make some people feel less mentally alert, depressed and fatigued.


And naturally any physical changes caused by a thyroid disorder (such as weight gain or loss of hair) can lead to low self-esteem.


The main thing is not to keep such things to yourself but to talk to your doctor because this is part of your overall condition.  The first thing your doctor can do is run tests to check if your thyroid medication is properly balanced.  In many instances psychological symptoms will improve and vitality will return as the disorder is brought back under control by treatment.


In the event of severe symptoms which are not improving your doctor can refer you to a specialist in endocrinology and may also decide that anxiety or depression should be treated in its own right through therapy or anti-depressants.


Alongside these things you’ll respond better to medication if you manage your stress levels and eat a healthy diet. Try to establish a good sleep routine as well - winding down before bedtime and going to bed/waking up at the same time of day will help you break the cycle of lack of sleep at night making you irritable


Talk also to your friends and family so that they can understand what is happening and have the opportunity to be supportive.


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Although every effort is made to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional.

 As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals Dr Vanderpump cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can he be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link