Understanding the Association of Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression

Understanding the Association of Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression

Although they are separate medical conditions, thyroid dysfunction and depression are often linked. Sometimes these two conditions lead to confusion, as depression can sometimes be a symptom of hypothyroidism. Adding to the confusion is the fact that people with hypothyroidism are sometimes misdiagnosed with depression, or diagnosed only with depression rather than both conditions. Despite the confusion, there is actually a proven link between the two illnesses.

What exactly is the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and depression? How can you tell if you have one or both conditions, and how can you be properly diagnosed and treated?

What Does Your Thyroid Do?

Let’s begin by discussing what a thyroid actually is and how it’s supposed to function. The thyroid is a gland inside your neck below your larynx, often called an Adam’s apple. You can feel your larynx at the front of your neck, but when your thyroid is its regular size, you won’t be able to feel it.

Your thyroid is responsible for creating several hormones, which are chemical messengers used by your body to communicate with tissues and organs. Thyroid hormones specifically help with physiological processes such as your growth, muscle control, and body temperature.

One of the main jobs of your thyroid hormones is to regulate the metabolism of the cells in your body. Although we usually use the word metabolism just to refer to how quickly our body breaks down food, metabolism actually refers to all chemical reactions inside of living things that keep us alive, such as helping with cell repair and growth.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

There are a number of irregular ways that your thyroid can function. The one most often linked with depression is hypothyroidism. This condition occurs when your thyroid is unable to produce enough thyroid hormone.

Since your thyroid regulates the metabolism for all cells inside your body, hypothyroidism causes many physiological processes to slow down. Your symptoms might include:

  • Fatigue
  • Puffy face
  • Oversensitivity to cold
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and legs
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low body temperature
  • Slow pulse
  • Slow reflexes
  • Infertility or repeated miscarriages

Are Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression Related?

Scientists have gathered evidence for many years about the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and depression. This relationship can be confusing to sort out in part because hypothyroidism and depression can present with similar symptoms. People with either one of these chronic illnesses often experience persistent sadness, low interest or motivation levels, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, low libido, and weight gain. This sometimes leads to people with hypothyroidism being incorrectly diagnosed with depression. It can also lead to people being correctly diagnosed with depression, but having their hypothyroidism go unnoticed by physicians.

A thyroid that performs slower than usual means all parts of your body are not receiving enough thyroid hormones to function properly, including those parts responsible for processes such as mood and energy. This causes some people with hypothyroidism to be treated instead for depression, even though their depression is actually a result of their thyroid dysfunction.

Subclinical hypothyroidism is an early and mild form of hypothyroidism in which patients have few to no symptoms, but puts people at greater risk for developing full-blown hypothyroidism.  A recent meta-analysis that gathered data from twenty-one previous studies discovered that people with subclinical hypothyroidism, especially those over 50 years old, are especially at risk for developing depression.

Do I Have Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression?

You may have both thyroid dysfunction and depression if you present with symptoms unexplained by your depression, such as dry skin, hair loss or oversensitivity to cold.

If you suspect that you have hypothyroidism, consult with your doctor on the best ways to test for this condition. It is important to remember that you might have hypothyroidism even if your initial test results come back normal.   There are numerous tests for hypothyroidism, and you might need several before receiving a diagnosis. Your doctor can then work with you to develop a treatment plan, which usually involves taking supplemental thyroid hormone.

How Can Mid City TMS Help?

Whether you are experiencing depression or both thyroid dysfunction and depression, Mid City TMS is here for you. TMS is a nonconvulsive and noninvasive procedure approved by the FDA.  If you do have hypothyroidism, you need not worry about your hypothyroidism reacting adversely to or being exacerbated by TMS. Check out our FAQ or contact us today to learn if TMS is right for you.

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