Thyroid and state of mind: what is their relationship?

Thyroid and state d

A slight rise or fall in thyroid hormones can completely change a person's behavior. His preferences, his sexual behavior, his appetite and his attitudes are strongly impacted and are seen altered. There is, in fact, one close relationship between thyroid and state of mind.

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Acorn-like in size and butterfly-shaped, the thyroid gland is one of the most important in the human body. If we begin to suffer from ailments related to it, the most likely thing is to manifest physical and emotional symptoms. Do you want to know the relationship between thyroid and state of mind?

Functions and dysfunctions of the thyroid gland

The thyroid is the gland in charge of regulating the metabolism and giving the body the amount of energy necessary to perform its basic functions. In other words, it determines how fast our cells burn calories and the rate at which our heart beats.

It is located in the front of the neck, just below the larynx, and secretes three types of hormones. Calcitocin which regulates the level of calcium in the blood. It counteracts the onset of some diseases such as osteoporosis, as it favors the deposit of this mineral in the bones.

Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) which accelerate cell metabolism by producing an increase in body heat. T4 is the main thyroid hormone in the blood. T3 affects the growth and development of the nervous system and heart rhythm.

Doctor palpating a patient's thyroid

The two most known thyroid disorders are:

  • Hypothyroidism (slow thyroid) : the gland is not very active and produces an insufficient amount of hormones.
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) : The gland is very active and produces an excessive amount of hormones.

Although both arise from an alteration in the functioning of this gland, the two conditions have very different repercussions on the people who suffer from them, both physically and psychologically.

Physical symptoms of thyroid changes

The physical signs of the two thyroid disorders will be different. And, on many occasions, they can even be opposites. However, they coincide and share inadequate stimulation of the different organs of the body.

  • Physical symptoms of hypothyroidism: weight gain, inability to tolerate cold environments, irregular menstrual cycles, lower heart rate, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, weak breaking nails and muscle cramps.
  • Physical symptoms of hyperthyroidism: distraction, weight loss, heat intolerance, higher or irregular heart rate, goiter, fatigue or weakness muscle, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, difficulty sleeping and hand tremors.

How are they reflected on the state of mind?

As we have already mentioned, the relationship between the thyroid gland and the state of mind is very close. Changes in hormone levels directly affect the person from a physical, cognitive and emotional point of view . For this reason, the psychological symptoms and the alterations in the mood that occur are equally serious.

In fact, psychological disorders are the main reason why patients with hypothyroidism go to the doctor . They complain of a progressive loss of initiative and interest, caused by a generalized slowing down of mental processes.

This causes memory problems, intellectual deterioration, difficulties with attention and concentration (especially in calculation tasks) and confused thinking. The thyroid is very sensitive to psychological stimuli. For this reason, patients with low thyroid activity present a mood very close to sadness, nostalgia, melancholy and even depression. In severe cases and that have not been treated properly, the disorder can lead to dementia .

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The hyperthyroidism, on the other hand, usually generates irritability, nervousness, hyperactivity, impatience, and sudden mood swings . It is associated with increased anxiety, mental agitation, emotional lability (they cry easily and unable to control themselves) and insomnia. If left untreated, delusions and hallucinations may appear, as well as very serious heart, bone, muscle and reproductive problems.

Tired woman

Depression and thyroid

Some of the emotions that have a closer relationship with the thyroid are anger and rage. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism they have one point in common: the creation of a manifestly depressive symptomatology .

Particular attention should be paid why it's very common confuse the depression with a thyroid gland problem. In other words, while there are incipient signs of depression, it doesn't mean it exists by itself .

In the case of hypothyroidism, the depressive clinical picture is more evident. This is due to the fact that as hormone production drops and body metabolism decreases, the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain also decrease.

We see that the fluctuations and changes in thyroid function can lead to serious psychological disturbances, around which a wrong origin can be established. Before starting a treatment for depression, it is necessary to ascertain the state of thyroid activity .

Thyroid and state of mind are intimately linked

It is difficult to have altered thyroid hormone levels and not notice severe physical and emotional instability. By treating thyroid dysfunction, certain psychological or psychiatric disorders improve and may even disappear. The relationship between the thyroid gland and the state of mind is an increasingly evident reality. From this it derives the importance of prevention and a diagnosis early for satisfactory resolution .

There are many signs and symptoms that tell us that something in our body is not working well. Radical changes in fatigue levels following insignificant exertion, pronounced irritability or short temper, or trouble sleeping are some examples of these changes. When faced with the slightest suspicion, it is best to consult a specialist. Think that with a simple blood test you can know how your thyroid works.

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  • Bauer, M., Goetz, T., Glenn, T., and Whybrow, PC (2008). Thyroid-brain interaction in thyroid disorders and mood disorders. Journal of Neuroendocrinology .
  • Bauer, M., Heinz, A., and Whybrow, PC (2002). Thyroid Hormones, Serotonin, and Mood: Synergy and Meaning in the Adult Brain. Molecular Psychiatry .