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Depression, the Thyroid, and Hormones

The thyroid gland produces and regulates thyroid hormones. These hormones can affect energy levels, mood, even weight. They can also be factors in depression. Read on to find out what causes thyroid-related depression and how it's treated.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are substances produced by the endocrine glands that have a tremendous effect on bodily processes. The glands in the endocrine system influence growth and development, mood, sexual function, reproduction, and metabolism.

What Do Hormones Have to Do With Depression?

Levels of certain hormones, such as those produced by the thyroid gland, can be factors in depression. In addition, some symptoms of depression are associated with thyroid conditions. The same is true about conditions related to the menstrual cycle, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), perimenopause, and menopause.

Because there is this connection between depression symptoms and other medical conditions, blood tests are often ordered to avoid a misdiagnosis. It is important to note that you can have both depression and thyroid conditions at the same time. It is also possible to have depression and menstruation-related symptoms.

What Are Some Types of Thyroid Conditions?

Thyroid gland hormones can affect food metabolism, mood, and sexual function. When the thyroid produces too much hormone, the body uses energy faster than it should. This condition, overactive thyroid, is called hyperthyroidism. Symptoms that may indicate hyperthyroidism include:

  • enlarged thyroid gland
  • inability to tolerate heat
  • infrequent, scant menstrual periods
  • irritability or nervousness
  • muscle weakness or tremors
  • sleep disturbances
  • vision problems or eye irritation
  • weight loss

When the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone, the body uses energy at a slower pace than it should. This condition, underactive thyroid, is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms that may indicate hypothyroidism include:

  • dry, coarse skin and hair
  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness
  • frequent, heavy menstrual periods
  • hoarse voice
  • inability to tolerate cold
  • weight gain
  • enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter)

Some of these symptoms -- fatigue, irritability, weight changes, and sleep problems -- are symptoms that may also indicate depression.

Your doctor may order blood tests to determine levels of certain hormones, including:

  • thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH, which is released by the pituitary gland)
  • triiodothyronine (T3)
  • thyroxine (T4)

What Causes Thyroid Disease?

There are many different reasons why either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism might develop. Currently, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. People of all ages and races can get thyroid disease. Some babies born with a non-functioning thyroid gland may have thyroid disease from the beginning of life. Women are five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems.

Hypothyroidism may be caused by:

  • thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid gland that can affect the level of thyroid hormone production
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a painless and hereditary immune system disease
  • post-partum thyroiditis, which occurs in five to nine percent of women who have given birth and is usually temporary

WebMD Medical Reference

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