Hypothyroidism and Depression

Although they're separate diseases, depression is sometimes a symptom of hypothyroidism. That’s when your thyroid gland doesn't make enough of the thyroid hormone. Medication to boost those levels can get rid of your symptoms, including depression.

The two conditions share so many symptoms that doctors sometimes overlook the possibility that someone who is depressed may also have low thyroid levels.

If you have hypothyroidism, you may have fatigue, sluggishness, and trouble concentrating, and you may sleep too much. All of that may cause you to feel depressed.

At the same time, you could also have:

  • Slower heart rate
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Joint or muscle pain or cramps
  • Tingling in your hands and fingers
  • Vague aches and pains
  • Modest weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Dryness or yellowing of your skin
  • Brittle or thick nails
  • Hoarse voice
  • Swelling in front of your neck
  • Hair thinning or loss

Linking Hypothyroidism With Depression

To help doctors figure out if your depression is due to hypothyroidism, you need to be tested for thyroid disorders. Blood tests can confirm them by showing a low level of a thyroid hormone called thyroxine and a high level of one called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

Studies show that if you have both hypothyroidism and depression, things may improve with thyroid-replacement medications rather than relying on antidepressants. They increase levels of two major thyroid hormones: triiodothyronine (also called T3) and thyroxin (T4). When thyroid pills lower TSH levels to the normal range, depression often eases.

Getting Help

If you're feeling depressed, see your doctor. Because both hypothyroidism and depression can be treated, a proper diagnosis is a major first step toward feeling more like yourself.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on December 29, 2015

Sources

SOURCES: 

Fountoulakis, K. BMC Psychiatry, March 15, 2004. 

Garber, J. Journal of Family Practice, June 2006.

Thyroid Foundation of America: "Depression and Thyroid Illness." 

National Institutes of Health: "Medical Encyclopedia: Hypothyroidism."

Demet, M. West Indian Medical Journal, September 2003.

Altshuler, L. American Journal of Psychiatry, October 2001.

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