By Corri Peterson
Often the signs of thyroid problems are first noticed by friends, family, and professionals. Many times you are surprised these symptoms are linked to your thyroid.
Low thyroid or hypothyroidism is a chronic condition when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. (If you purchase through the links in this post, we may receive a commission.) Many professionals estimate up to 20% of the population has some form of thyroid dysfunction.
Primary causes of thyroid disorders are stress, nutrient deficiencies, and autoimmune disease. The rise in autoimmune disease is linked to exposure to environmental toxins. This toxic burden, which we are exposed to from an early age, damages the thyroid and overloads the body’s detoxification abilities.
Common symptoms linked to thyroid dysfunction are:
- Loss of energy
- Weight gain
- Decreased appetite
- Intolerance to cold
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- A feeling of fullness in the throat
Some of the above-listed symptoms can also be linked to several other diseases, including menopause, Lyme disease, COPD, hypertension, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, to name a few.
What about mental health symptoms?
Did you know that several mental health symptoms are related to thyroid function? It’s common for a person to visit a health care provider complaining about symptoms they had no idea were related to the thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is often associated with cognitive impairment and mood disturbances, implying that thyroid hormones are critical for normal brain functioning.
It’s estimated up to 15% of women taking antidepressants have an undiagnosed thyroid issue being the root cause of their depression. That explains why antidepressants don’t help a subset of women – they were misdiagnosed and mistreated.
Since the brain uses so much energy, individuals with a slowed metabolism and low energy, normal with hypothyroidism, will lose their mental sharpness. As a result, it’s challenging to maintain clarity, focus, and sharp memory. As a result, low thyroid function is often a common cause of brain fog, depression, difficulty concentrating, and short-term memory loss.
The amount of thyroid hormone your body has can significantly affect your personality, including mimicking the symptoms of depression.
Thyroid disease and mental health issues have a long history; in 1850, the first case of hypothyroidism or Myxedema was recorded. In 1949, the term myxedema madness was introduced. Myxedema indicates low thyroid function, so the term myxedema madness indicated that people with low thyroid function were mad. If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you may very well agree with this statement.
These signs of thyroid problems are often overlooked but are commonly linked to thyroid disease.
The amount of thyroid hormone your body has can significantly affect your personality, including mimicking the symptoms of depression. Research shows that hypothyroidism may affect as many as 20% of depressed people.
Mental health experts’ research states that 40% of clinically hypothyroid patients have significant depression.
According to the Thyroid Society, “most hypothyroidism patients have some degree of associated depression, ranging from mild to severe. While 10%-15% of the patients with a diagnosis of depression may have a thyroid hormone deficiency.”
Several medical professionals recognize and have studied the mental health effects caused by unstable thyroid hormone levels.
People with depression should be tested for thyroid disorders. Numerous studies have been done and are continuing to connect depression and thyroid disease. All forms of depression are linked to either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism; however, it is more commonly found with hypothyroidism. In addition, many with hypothyroidism have some degree of associated anxiety, ranging from mild to severe.
If you have depression and thyroid disease but have not been treated for your thyroid problem, starting thyroid hormone therapy may help ease your depression.
If you have hypothyroidism and are on depression medication, your doctor needs to determine if the depression is caused by hypothyroidism or if the antidepressant treatment is causing the hypothyroidism.
Many providers believe that thyroid hormone replacement can help with the treatment of depression. However, remember that thyroid hormone medication alone taken by someone who doesn’t have a thyroid condition will not lessen depression. Still, when given together with antidepressants, many see improvements in their mental health.
Some will still suffer from depression that requires further treatment. Combining medication, herbal and vitamin therapy, and exercise all may help with easing depression symptoms.
For those suffering from either thyroid disease, depression, or both, there are treatments available. First, talk with your healthcare provider to set up a treatment plan to get your health back on track. Remember that different medications and treatment plans work better for some than others, so do not get discouraged if the first treatment plan does not give you the desired results. Instead, try different combinations of medications and supplements until you are feeling like yourself again.
A review from JAMA Psychiatry found that hypothyroid people are more than twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders, plus almost a third of all anxiety disorders are linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
Hypothyroidism symptoms like poor concentration, memory loss, and struggling with daily tasks add anxiety.
Typically, anxiety is a stress reaction. Anxiety may make it harder to remember taking your medications, going to the doctor, or managing a healthy lifestyle.
Treating hypothyroidism usually eases symptoms, but a few will need additional anti-anxiety medications.
Common signs of thyroid problems are depression, feeling achy, and exhaustion. These symptoms can lead to mood swings, while some have difficulty eating or sleeping.
Reducing stress by taking a walk, soaking in the tub, or watching a sitcom will ease mood swings.
Several forms of cognitive symptoms develop in people with abnormal thyroid levels:
Forgetfulness and memory loss–
You forget to run errands or items at the store.
Memory problems and difficulty concentrating–
Studies have shown that verbal memory, in particular, can be affected by hypothyroidism.
Small changes in executive functioning–
These changes have also been noted in untreated or under-treated hypothyroidism. Executive functioning includes abilities such as planning, impulse control, and making decisions.
Symptoms of mild dementia–
These symptoms sometimes occur, but fortunately, treatment eases and controls them.
Slowed speech and movements Slow movement and thought-commonly referred to as Brain Fog.
Many people aren’t aware that hypothyroidism can cause ADHD symptoms. Low thyroid function slows the brain, causing brain fog, memory loss, anxiety, depression, inability to focus, and difficulty concentrating or performing basic tasks.
Research has shown that people with a general resistance to thyroid hormone have a higher incidence of ADHD than their unaffected family members. In addition, studies have shown that thyroid symptoms are higher in children with ADHD than in the average population.
There are several additional cognitive symptoms that those with thyroid problems experience, a few of those include:
Impaired and judgment–
This is often linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but is also linked to thyroid problems.
Impairment of communication and language–
Studies have shown that dryness in the throat and larynx, combined with the feeling of a lump in the throat, leads to frequent speech disturbances occurring in patients with primary hypothyroidism.
Altered visual perception–
Studies show that adult-onset hypothyroidism slows the conduction of information in the central nervous system.
Decreased hearing and smell-
Changes in hearing and the sensation of smell have been reported.
Inability to focus or pay attention–
Low thyroid levels creates an inability to focus or pay attention. Adults with ADHD also have trouble paying attention and focusing.
Difficulty concentrating/ Inability to Concentrate-
It seems everything you do takes longer than it used to. The brain uses oxygen and glucose to function, so when thyroid hormone levels are low, metabolism slows, causing several cognitive problems.
Many of the symptoms of thyroid eye disease are linked to Graves’ disease. This autoimmune disease causes dry eyes, watery eyes, redness, bulging, double vision, among other problems.
Withdrawal from friends and family–
One of the signs of thyroid problems is not spending time with anyone. They may pass on activities due to fatigue or not feeling comfortable in a group. Keep in mind, anxiety and depression are usually present if dealing with thyroid disease.
General Loss of Interest–
You don’t care about anything. This symptom is linked to depression and a sense of overwhelm. You may feel an increasing lack of motivation along with muddled thinking.
Loss of Interest in Sex–
You have no desire. Your body processes slowing down can lead to a loss of sex drive, plus hypothyroidism symptoms of weight gain and fatigue can cause limited desire. In addition, higher-than-normal levels of the hormone prolactin can contribute to vaginal dryness, making sex painful.
Easing the Signs of Thyroid Problems
Nutrition typically plays a crucial role in thyroid health and can determine how well a person feels each day. If a healthy diet rich in thyroid-boosting nutrients is followed, it can make a world of difference—many with poor thyroid function are low in iodine, vitamin D, selenium, zinc, and iron.
Magnesium is needed to regulate blood sugar; low levels are linked to diabetes, fatigue, leg cramps, and heart arrhythmias.
You can ease depression and boost cognitive function by adding omega-3 fatty acids and other essential fatty acids.
The issue is that most of us are not deficient enough to develop the more severe symptoms doctors would notice (such as a goiter in the case of iodine deficiency). Instead, we have nutritional insufficiencies; our nutrient levels typically fall at the low end of the normal range, not bad enough for a diagnosis but still causing symptoms.
Remember, nutritional deficiencies and food intolerances may have developed; this is especially true with autoimmune diseases.
Some patients will want to work with a nutritionist; some may wish to experiment independently; either way, it takes time to determine which foods are the best for their health and symptom control. Many patients with thyroid disease feel better once they have had specific deficiencies addressed with testing and have removed foods no longer well tolerated.
Another burden for our thyroids is that we live in an ocean of environmental toxins-about 80,000, ranging from hormones to heavy metals that disrupt thyroid function. These toxins’ daily and cumulative burden causes direct damage to our thyroid health and overloads our bodies’ detoxification abilities.
Pesticides, lawn chemicals, personal care products, household cleaners, plastics, personal makeup, municipal water systems, and air pollution contribute to the toxic overload.
Many people report noticeable symptom relief once they have eliminated or limited most of the toxins they unknowingly exposed themselves to. In addition, many feel happier, have more energy, and enjoy life again thanks to improved thyroid function, fewer toxins, and better nutrition.
The Right Doctor
Finding the right doctor is also key to feeling better and controlling symptoms. If your doctor doesn’t listen to your concerns, it’s likely; you won’t get better quickly. Therefore, it is vital to find a thyroid doctor or program to treat the whole person, not only the thyroid lab numbers.
Many thyroid patients struggle with health care providers who only treat the lab results and dismiss any remaining symptoms as “in your head.”
This lack of compassion and symptom control leads them to seek out holistic or functional medicine providers. These providers look for the root cause of your symptoms, focus on diet, and test for nutritional deficiencies so they can recommend the correct supplements; plus, many use all-natural thyroid hormone replacement instead of levothyroxine. All-natural thyroid hormones replace several trace thyroid hormones not found in levothyroxine, giving patients better symptom control.
You can get your life back! Remember, if you have difficulty finding a healthcare provider who will offer the testing needed for a proper diagnosis and treatment, you have online options available.
Online laboratories test for various issues, and doctors do virtual visits to discuss the results. As a result, many thyroid patients who have had poor results with conventional doctors find virtual doctors offer more options and better care.