Thyroid disease and its link with depression & anxiety


This is the third post in a series on some of the physiological (non-psychological) causes of depression and/or anxiety.

Do you have depression, fatigue, foggy brain, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to the cold, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, low libido, fluid retention, unexplained weight gain, muscle aches and pains, and high cholesterol? What about anxiety, irritability, hyperactivity, nervousness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, increased sweating, frequent bowel movements, fatigue, muscle weakness and difficulty sleeping?
All these are common signs and symptoms of either hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

The thyroid's link with anxiety and/or depression lies in the effect the active thyroid hormone (known as triiodothyronine or T3 for short) has on every cell of the body including the brain. T3 helps the brain produce neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) involved in mood regulation. Thyroid disease can affect women, men and children. Causes of thyroid disease include nutrient deficiencies, gut issues, food sensitivities, cigarette smoking, chronic inflammation, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmunity, adrenal issues, stress and hormone imbalances (e.g. oestrogen dominance).

It is very common for someone who suffers from the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto's, to have swings between symptoms of hypo and hyperthyroidism. These swings can go back and forth, and studies have shown a prevalence of Hashimoto's in individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder.

Further studies have found that individuals with Hashimoto's display high frequencies of lifetime Depressive Episodes, Generalised Anxiety Disorders, Social Phobia, and Primary Sleep Disorders.

Another thyroid condition associated with depression or anxiety is post-partum thyroiditis. This condition can affect 1 out of 12 women in the general population and as the name suggests, it affects women following childbirth. Due to complex hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, women are more susceptible and vulnerable to developing thyroid dysfunction.

The classic course post-partum thyroiditis follows, is one of an initial period of transient hyperthyroidism followed by transient hypothyroidism. While most women recover, 54% of women will have persistent hypothyroidism beyond the first year following childbirth.

On another note, the subject of thyroid disease, anxiety, and depression is very personal to me. Following the birth of my second child I suffered crippling depression that plagued me for years. It wasn't until I was properly tested that I found out I had Hashimoto's. Through changes in diet, lifestyle, specific nutrient intervention and herbal medicine I was able to find healing. I am still susceptible to relapses, but I have learned to heed the warning signs and get back on track.

While I focused mostly on Hashimoto's in this post, another autoimmune thyroid disease called Graves', as well as non-autoimmune thyroid conditions, also have a significant impact on our mood and overall feelings of well being.

If you suffer from depression and/or anxiety and suspect you have a thyroid issue please make sure you get your thyroid tested correctly.
The biggest issue with diagnosing thyroid disease is the ineffectual testing. It is not enough to test for TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) alone! A full thyroid panel that includes thyroid antibodies and other important markers needs to be conducted.

If you would like help in this area and are interested in an individual naturopathic consultation please contact me to make your appointment.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series on the link between blood sugar imbalance and anxiety & depression.


Yours in Health,



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