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February 21, 2023 9 min read

Are you feeling down in the dumps? Are you having difficulty focusing or sleeping? It could be that your thyroid function is out of whack! While it may be easy to think of depression as an issue with the mind, what many people don't realize is that thyroid disorders can also play a role.

In this article, we'll discuss the link between hypothyroidism and depression. We'll also cover how T3 medications can help you deal with depression.

What does the thyroid do?

First of all, let's talk about the thyroid gland. This is a tiny, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones that regulate your body's metabolism, which is the process by which your body converts food into energy. The two main hormones that the thyroid produces are T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). These hormones are essential for normal bodily functions and help to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. That's why having an unhealthy thyroid and a thyroid imbalance can have a pretty serious impact on your overall well-being.

According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. The most issues associated with thyroid functioning are hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid isn't producing enough of its key hormones, while hyperthyroidism occurs when too much hormone is being produced. Both conditions cause a thyroid imbalance, which leads to a wide range of physical and psychological symptoms. These include mood swings, weight changes, and energy level changes.

When you have hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down, and your energy levels decrease. Thus, you may experience fatigue, slower heart rate, weight gain, joint pain, and hair loss. But aside from physical symptoms, there are also psychiatric and cognitive manifestations of hypothyroidism. These include depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and confusion.

What is depression?

Depression is more than just feeling down. It's a serious mood disorder that affects your thoughts, emotions, and actions. It can lead to a range of physical and emotional problems, making it difficult to carry out normal daily activities. Depression can cause a variety of symptoms. These include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness

  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring pleasure

  • Changes in sleep patterns

  • Changes in appetite

  • Slowed thinking

  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

Depression may also cause physical symptoms, such as headaches or back pain.


T3 cured my depression the link between underactive thyroid and depression

Can hypothyroidism cause depression?

Yes, depression is a common symptom of this thyroid disorder. In fact, people with hypothyroidism are more susceptible to depression than those with normal thyroid function. Among this population, those with milder or subclinical hypothyroidism may be at a lower risk of developing depression compared to those with severe hypothyroidism.

Some people with hypothyroidism may only experience irritability or sadness, but others can have all the symptoms of clinical depression.

How does hypothyroidism cause depression?

You might be wondering, "what's the link between thyroid disorders and depression?"

Hypothyroidism and depression are linked through the impact of thyroid hormones on your energy levels and physical strength. Here's how:

  • Thyroid hormones play a critical role in regulating our energy levels. That's why low levels of these hormones can result in reduced brain functioning, which can eventually lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism. However, the exact mechanism by which this occurs is not yet fully understood.

  • Hypothyroidism can slow you down physically. Thus, making it harder to do things like work or exercise. The lack of physical activity may also contribute to depression by reducing socialization and leading to more time spent alone at home.

Moreover, if you already have existing depression, hypothyroidism can make it worse since low thyroid hormone levels cause you to feel tired and need to rest more often than normal.

Can depression cause hypothyroidism?

While hypothyroidism can cause depression, it's unlikely for depression to cause hypothyroidism. However, medications for mood disorders can affect your thyroid functioning and causes thyroid problems.

One such medication is lithium, a common treatment for bipolar disorder. Lithium can prevent the production of both T3 and T4 hormones, which can lead to hypothyroidism and, in turn, cause depression. This is particularly true in middle-aged women. However, some people with bipolar disorder are also more likely to have hypothyroidism regardless of lithium treatment.

Antidepressant medications, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can impact the function of the thyroid gland. Research suggests that SSRIs may reduce levels of the T4 hormone by 11.2% and also affect hormone signaling in the hypothalamus area of the brain, which can further reduce hormone production.

Although rare, a 2015 study found that short-term use of SSRIs may lead to hypothyroidism. However, the study also found that the thyroid returned to normal after five months when switching to a different medication (venlafaxine).

Therefore, if you're taking psychiatric medications, it's important to have your thyroid checked regularly.

Is depression in hypothyroidism the same as clinical depression?

Depression is a common symptom of various health conditions, including hypothyroidism. However, depression can also be a disorder by itself, known as clinical depression. There are several types of depression, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, perinatal depression, seasonal affective disorder, and depression with symptoms of psychosis.

Clinical depression involves persistent sadness and four or more other depression symptoms for at least 2 weeks.

It's possible to have hypothyroidism and clinical depression simultaneously, as research shows that 49% of people with hypothyroidism also experience clinical depression. On the other hand, some people with hypothyroidism may experience depression but not meet the full criteria for clinical depression, which is known as depression associated with hypothyroidism.

Both hypothyroidism and depression share similar symptoms, such as weight gain, low energy, fatigue, and poor concentration. Thus, it can be difficult to differentiate between the two conditions. Therefore, it's essential to seek medical advice from a medical professional to accurately diagnose and treat both conditions.

How do doctors know if I have clinical depression or depression associated with hypothyroidism?

Your doctor will order blood tests to find out if you have thyroid disease or not. The first test they'll perform is the thyroid stimulating hormone test (TSH). TSH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland that has an important role in regulating the production of thyroid hormones.

When the levels of your thyroid hormones are low, the pituitary gland will release more TSH to signal the thyroid to produce more hormones. In contrast, when your thyroid hormones are high, your pituitary gland will release little to no TSH. Thus, a high level of TSH indicates hypothyroidism.

Further testing may be required to confirm the diagnosis, such as free T4 (FT4) and free T3 (FT3) tests.

How do I treat depression in hypothyroidism?

There are several ways you can treat depression in hypothyroidism.

Thyroid hormone replacement therapy

If you have both hypothyroidism and depression, especially if hypothyroidism is the culprit behind your depression, studies show that thyroid hormone replacement therapy may work better than antidepressants. This therapy involves taking daily medication that replaces the hormones that the thyroid is not making. The goal of the treatment is to mimic normal thyroid functioning.

As your thyroid hormone levels go back to normal, symptoms of hypothyroidism, including depressive symptoms, will eventually go away.

The two most common thyroid replacement therapies are levothyroxine and natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). Levothyroxine is a synthetic version of the T4 hormone, while NDT contains natural forms of both T4 and T3 derived from dried pig thyroid glands.

Another thyroid replacement medication available is liothyronine, the synthetic version of T3. However, it's less commonly prescribed compared to levothyroxine and NDT.

Adding T3 may be beneficial for hypothyroid patients with depressive symptoms

Levothyroxine is the primary treatment for hypothyroidism that doctors usually prescribe upon diagnosis. Although this medication is effective for many people, some may still experience negative symptoms even after taking it regularly, especially those who struggle with depressive symptoms.

According to research, adding T3 to your treatment regimen may improve your depression symptoms. Moreover, studies have found that levothyroxine is not always useful for anxiety symptoms in people with hypothyroidism and depression. One study even found that levothyroxine actually made anxiety symptoms worse.

Therefore, switching to liothyronine (T3) or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) may be the answer to your problems. NDT contains both T4 and T3 hormones and is preferred by many patients because of its complex consistency and overall effectiveness. Not only can NDT help improve your depressive symptoms, but it may also lead to more weight loss. Some people also prefer NDT because it's all-natural. So, if you're not feeling better with levothyroxine, consider talking to your doctor about trying liothyronine T3 or NDT to get the relief you need.

The drawback of these medications is that some doctors refuse to prescribe them, and they can be hard to find in pharmacies. But the good news is that you can buy desiccated thyroid online, such as VitaliThy. Considered an NDT supplement, VitaliThy is free from common allergens like gluten, lactose, shellfish, fish, and eggs. Plus, it's free from artificial coloring and flavoring.

Talk therapy with a professional

Talking to a therapist can be an effective way to improve the psychological symptoms of thyroid disorders. There are different types of talk therapy available, including cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy. These therapies can help people identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and develop strategies to manage and overcome them. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns, while psychodynamic psychotherapy explores the underlying causes of these patterns.

What are other ways to treat depression in hypothyroidism?

In addition to thyroid medication and therapy, there are other ways to help improve how you feel. However, it's important to note that these are not substitutes for medication but rather complementary ways to support your overall well-being.

Get a restful night of sleep

Try to get quality sleep, around 7 to 8 hours every night. To improve your sleep, it's important to establish a consistent sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays.

About an hour before bedtime, try to start winding down and relaxing. Turn off the TV, stay away from your phone, and listen to calming music to signal your body that it's time to sleep. These strategies can help you get a more restful night's sleep and improve your overall well-being. However, it's important to remember that these strategies are not a substitute for thyroid medication and therapy, which should be prescribed and monitored by a healthcare provider.

Plan your day

Hypothyroidism and depression can significantly affect your motivation and energy levels, making it difficult to accomplish tasks and stay productive. If you're struggling with these conditions, here are some tips to help you get things done:

  1. Break down tasks into smaller ones: If a task seems too overwhelming, try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. This can help you feel more accomplished and motivated to keep going.

  2. Schedule tasks during your peak focus time: Try to schedule your most demanding tasks during the time of day when you feel most alert and focused. This can help you be more efficient and productive.

  3. Take breaks and exercise: Taking regular breaks and incorporating exercise into your routine can help improve your mental and physical health, which can, in turn, increase your motivation and energy levels.

  4. Track your mood throughout the day: Keep track of when you feel the most productive and when you experience mood changes or symptoms of depression. This can help you plan your day more effectively and avoid triggering situations.

  5. Develop coping strategies: If you notice patterns in your mood and productivity, work on developing coping strategies to help you manage these situations. This can include mindfulness techniques, self-care practices, or seeking support from a therapist or healthcare provider.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can be beneficial for managing both hypothyroidism and depression. It can boost metabolism, improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase energy levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming.

When starting an exercise routine, it's important to start slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of the workouts. Walking, cycling, swimming, and yoga are all great, low-impact exercises that can be done by people of all fitness levels. It's also important to listen to your body and not overdo it, especially if you're dealing with hypothyroidism-related fatigue.

Learn relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can be very helpful in managing stress. They're not just about finding inner peace or indulging in a hobby. Relaxation techniques can actually reduce the negative effects of stress on your body and mind. Using relaxation methods can help you manage the daily stress of life. They can also be helpful in dealing with long-term stress and in managing various mental health problems, such as depression, in the context of hypothyroidism.

There are many different relaxation techniques to choose from. Deep breathing, massage, Tai chi, yoga, and music and art therapy are just a few examples. Each technique has its own unique benefits and can help you feel more relaxed and focused. Whether you choose to try one of these methods or experiment with other relaxation techniques, the goal is to find what works best for you and make it a regular part of your routine.

Conclusion: depressive symptoms of hypothyroidism can be managed with medication

If you're struggling with depression caused by hypothyroidism, taking thyroid hormone replacement medication may provide relief. However, the standard treatment, levothyroxine, may not be effective for everyone and can even exacerbate symptoms. Switching to thyroid medications that include T3, such as liothyronine or natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), can be a solution. VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online, is a great option to consider.

While medication is crucial, other practices can also help improve symptoms. Engaging in talk therapy, establishing a regular sleep schedule, planning your day, exercising, and practicing relaxation techniques are all helpful ways to support your mental health. Remember, these methods are complementary to medication and should be used in conjunction with it to maximize the benefit.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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