Affecting approximately 6.4 percent of Americans age 12 and older, hypothyroidism is a growing problem.
Hypothyroidism has an enormous impact on the patient’s life. Day by day, this condition is causing both physical and psychological difficulties. Patients often complain about feeling low, depressed, unable to sleep, and unintentionally gaining weight.
Can they also experience mood swings too? Can your rapidly changing mood be explained by your low thyroid hormone levels?
That is exactly what we are here to discuss today.
What causes hypothyroidism?
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped endocrine gland. It is located in the front part of the neck, where it produces and releases two essential hormones – thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).
It is through these two hormones that the thyroid gland can control and maintain many vital body functions. Our thyroid gland takes part in maintaining our metabolism, body temperature, energy levels, mood, and so much more.
Hypothyroidism, otherwise known as an "underactive thyroid," is an ever-growing problem. Approximately 10 million people in the U.S alone struggle with the issue of hypothyroidism. These numbers are expected to grow in the future.
In patients with hypothyroidism, their thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. As a result, the patient experiences a long list of mild to more severe symptoms. These symptoms can seriously impair one’s quality of life. This issue tends to affect more women as compared to men. Experts suggest that every 1 in 8 women will struggle with hypothyroidism during their lifetime.
Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism. In the case of hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too much of its thyroid hormones. So, now, the question is – What is causing the issue that is hypothyroidism? The truth is that many different factors contribute to the development of hypothyroidism. Let’s have a look at the common causes of hypothyroidism.
The most common cause for hypothyroidism happens to be Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of the thyroid gland. The inflammation is caused as a result of the immune system cells attacking the thyroid gland. The chronic inflammation then causes the thyroid gland function to gradually decline, thus causing hypothyroidism.
Congenital hypothyroidism, as the term implies, is a case of hypothyroidism that is present from birth. The patient is born with low thyroid hormone levels, thus struggling with the issues that this condition is known to bring. The number of congenital hypothyroidism cases is increasing. Knowing this, all newborn babies in the U.S are screened for hypothyroidism. This can help diagnose the problem at its early stages and introduce treatment as soon as possible.
Partial or complete removal of the thyroid gland
Hyperthyroidism, thyroid gland cancer, and goiters are some of the issues that are often treated by performing a partial or a complete thyroid gland removal. With the thyroid gland gone, there is no one to produce the much-needed thyroid hormones. And so, the patient faces the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Several medications can interfere with normal thyroid gland function. Lithium, tyrosine kinase inhibitors, interleukin-2, and interferon-alpha are usually reported for having caused interruptions in the normal thyroid gland function. If you are worried that your medication is causing hypothyroidism to consult your doctor about the possibility of switching your medication.
Radiation therapy is part of the usual treatment plan for lymphoma, leukemia, cancer of the neck, etc. As helpful it can be, killing off cancer cells, radiation therapy still has its downsides. In a number of cases, radiation therapy has been listed as the cause of the thyroid gland function is slowed down, thus causing hypothyroidism.
Iodine is one of the essential minerals. With it’s help, our thyroid gland can function properly and maintain healthy thyroid hormone levels. But to do so, the iodine levels in the body have to be properly balanced. Too high levels of iodine can quickly cause hyperthyroidism the same way that too low levels of iodine can cause hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed. To achieve that, your doctor will try to replace the thyroid hormone that your thyroid gland is no longer able to produce enough of.
By doing so, your thyroid hormone levels will go back to normal, and so will your general physical and mental health. The usual course of treatment includes the use of synthetic thyroxine (T4). The patient will need to take this medication for the rest of their life to function properly.
The physical and psychological symptoms of hypothyroidism
Over time, the production of thyroid hormones tends to slow down more and more. This leads to the gradual progression of the present symptoms, both in number and in severity. It is not unusual for patients to report their symptoms after their case of hypothyroidism has entered a late stage. Usually, the first symptoms that take place are fatigue and weight gain. These two, however, are often not worrying.
It is not until the patient deals with an irregular heartbeat, memory problems, and infertility, among other symptoms, that they decide to ask for professional help only to discover that they are dealing with a case of hypothyroidism.
We mentioned hypothyroidism causing many different symptoms. Many of them are hard to notice, especially at the beginning. Knowing that, we decided to go through some of the most common hypothyroidism symptoms. This can help you recognize the problem and ask for help in time.
The list of most common hypothyroidism signs and symptoms includes:
- Unintentional weight gain
- Dry skin and hair
- Joint and muscle pain
- Memory issues
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
- Slower heart rate
- Decreased sexual desire
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Hoarseness, etc
The link between hypothyroidism and mood swings
Both hypo- and hyperthyroidism can greatly affect your mood and mental health. The fact that both of these conditions cause hormone imbalances can explain why your mental health is just as fragile as your physical health once hypo- or hyperthyroidism develops. Let’s take a look at the most common psychological symptoms that are linked to thyroid hormone disbalances.
- Hypothyroidism – Hypothyroidism, with its low thyroid hormone levels, can have a significant impact on your mental health. Symptoms include – depression, mood swings, anxiety, high-stress levels, decreased motivation, trouble sleeping, concentration issues, a short temper, loss of appetite, etc.
- Hyperthyroidism – Hyperthyroidism, too, has its impact on your mental health. And so, symptoms such as panic attacks, anxiety, high-stress levels, restlessness, a short temper, mood swings, impatience, and trouble sleeping can be expected.
As you can see, mood swings can be caused by both hypo- and hyperthyroidism. According to experts, the more severe your hypothyroidism is, the more severe your mood swings will be as well. You may not notice these mood swings at the beginning. However, as time passes and the mood swings are gradually getting more common and more severe, it will be hard not to notice them.
These mood swings can be explained by looking at the nature of the condition itself. Hypothyroidism causes great changes in one’s physical and mental health. These changes take place as a result of the abnormally low thyroid hormone levels.
Many people experience difficulties when seeing their bodies change as they lose weight, lose hair, face fatigue, and pain. These changes often cause a decrease in one's self-confidence levels. Losing your self-confidence can impair your mental health, thus causing mood swings, depression, and anxiety, which we all listed as being the common mental health symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Not getting enough sleep can seriously impair one’s mental health. There is no denying the fact that sleep and mood are closely intervened. And with hypothyroidism disturbing your sleep, it can be hard to avoid experiencing any mood swings as a result. Experiencing changes in the menstrual cycle and infertility, too, can harm one’s physical health. While infertility is not a disease by any means, it still greatly influences our life. Infertility has been linked to several psychological-emotional disorders, as explained in a 2014 study.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health investigated the incidence of mood disorders among women with hypothyroidism. More specifically, the purpose of the study was to determine whether or not the use of levothyroxine can help reduce the symptoms of mood disorders in these patients.
To do that, a total of 393 women were included as a part of the study. The case group consisted of 153 women with hypothyroidism treated with levothyroxine, while the control group consisted of 240 women without hypothyroidism. The results showed that the rates of depression and anxiety were significantly higher among the hypothyroidism patients, even though they received proper treatment by using levothyroxine.
In conclusion, while levothyroxine has a crucial role in the hypothyroidism treatment plan, this medication alone is not enough to treat the common mood swings and disorders. To prevent the development and persistence of such issues, it is vital that we include other treatment methods as well.
How to improve your mental health in times of hypothyroidism
Taking levothyroxine alone will not be enough to soothe your poor mental health. If you are interested in eliminating your depression, anxiety, mood swings, and any other mental health issues that you may be facing, then you will need a little bit of extra help. Here are a few effective techniques that you may want to try out.
- Take a deep breath and relax – Living the busy lives that we are on top of dealing with hypothyroidism can be more than stressful. Chronic stress can only worsen your general health and symptoms, which is why relaxation is so important. Take the time to find the thing that relaxes you the most. Whether it is a hot bath, a long walk, a mindful meditation, or even a TV show that you like – find it and start implementing it daily. This will help soothe your nerves and improve your mood, which is just what you need in times of chronic stress and mood swings.
- Focus on your diet – Since weight gain is a common symptom of hypothyroidism, the key is to do whatever you can to fight it. One of the best ways to do so is by focusing on the foods that you eat. Think about your diet for a moment. Think about how much water you are drinking each day. Are you skipping meals, and if yes, why? How often do you eat whole foods instead of fast food and take out? The sooner you figure out your role in the weight gain process, the better. Eliminating such behaviors can help you maintain a healthy weight despite your abnormal thyroid hormone levels.
- Start moving more – Exercise should always be a priority. This is another great way to maintain a healthy weight in addition to balancing your hormone levels and improving your health. Find an activity that you like and start implementing it in your daily life. As long as it brings you joy and keeps you sweating, it is more than welcome!
- Get enough sleep – And last but not least important is your sleep schedule. With hypothyroidism disturbing your sleep, it is important that you seek a way to fix that. Creating and sticking to a sleep schedule can be quite helpful. All that physical exercise throughout the day will do the trick as well, so you better not forget about it. If you feel that you need a bit of help, do not be afraid to talk to your doctor about it.
Are you feeling moody?
Perhaps lately, you have been gaining weight and feeling anxious about it? Or maybe it is your thyroid hormones that are out of order, thus causing the many changes that you are going through right now.
If you suspect a thyroid hormone imbalance, do talk to your doctor as soon as possible. With the right treatment, you no longer have to struggle with your poor mental and physical health.
In the meantime, exercising more, sleeping better, and eating a healthy diet, including supplementation if necessary, will help with your thyroid imbalances as well.
Chiovato, L., Magri, F., & Carlé, A. (2019). Hypothyroidism in context: Where we’ve been and where we’re going. Advances in Therapy, 36(S2), 47-58. doi:10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6822815/
Triantafillou, S., Saeb, S., Lattie, E. G., Mohr, D. C., & Kording, K. P. (2019). Relationship between sleep quality and mood: Ecological momentary assessment study. JMIR Mental Health, 6(3). doi:10.2196/12613
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6456824/
Romero-Gómez, B., Guerrero-Alonso, P., Carmona-Torres, J. M., Notario-Pacheco, B., & Cobo-Cuenca, A. I. (2019). Mood disorders in levothyroxine-treated hypothyroid women. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(23), 4776. doi:10.3390/ijerph16234776
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6926863/
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