The Thyroid and Anxiety

MayoClinic.com

The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that is located in the front of the neck. This little gland is super important as it regulates body temperature, plays a role in metabolism, and affects other hormones in the body.

When this gland is out of whack, it can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, anxiety being one of them. In fact, it seems to me anxiety and thyroid often go hand in hand.

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is commonly known as an ‘overactive thyroid’.There can be psychiatric aspects of hyperthyroidism including panic attacks, mood swings, auditory hallucinations, and even psychosis. From what I have learned, people can who have undiagnosed hyperthyroidism may sometimes be misdiagnosed as having panic disorder.

On the other side of the spectrum is Hypothyroidism, which I have. This is where the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. In my case, my body doesn’t produce any hormone at all.

When I was 15, I had a big lump in the front of my neck. My high school health teacher first pointed it out, and I told my mom. That lump turned out to be a goiter, and that is how I discovered I had hypothyroidism. The form I have is called Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. I’ve been on generic Synthroid (levothyroxine) daily ever since.

(On a funny side note, the word Hashimoto always reminded me of Quasimoto, you know, the hunchback bell ringer guy)  :)

Although the actual numbers for what is considered normal with TSH levels, here are the latest recommendations:

    Normal: 0.5 – 2.5 mIU/L (mili-international units per liter)
    Possible hypothyroidism (subclinical): 3 – 10 mIU/L
    Hypothyroidism: 10 mIU/l and above.

If you have symptoms of anxiety, you should get tested for abnormal thyroid. Also, if you take anti- anxiety or antidepressant medications and they don’t work, you should have your thyroid checked- as you may need thyroid hormone medication instead of these medications.

I had panic attacks long before I was diagnosed, and I obviously have no idea how long my thyroid stopped functioning normally before I grew the goiter. And while I still suffered from panic even after my thyroid was under control, I’m very curious about hypothyroidism and anxiety and if there is a correlation between them.

In my career as a nurse, I noticed that often when a patient was on thyroid medication, they were also on an anti anxiety medication as well. When getting report on patients, hyperthyroid and anxiety appeared to me to be linked. I asked many doctors about this over the years, but I have to say no doctor ever confirmed to me a correlation between anxiety manifestation and hypothyroid.

I found this article, that mentions medical research on hypothyroid and anxiety: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art52285.asp

I don’t believe in coincidences and I just find it very interesting that in caring for hundreds, if not thousands of patients over my career, I would review a patient intake, admit a new patient or receive a patient from elsewhere in the hospital and there it was:  Patient history: his diagnosis, his history: hypothyroidism, panic attacks, etc. etc.

Remember- If you suffer from anxiety symptoms and think you might have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, be sure to check with your doctor.

Do you have hypo or hyperthyroidism in addition to your anxiety? Do you think there is a correlation between the thyroid and anxiety? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

I wish you peace,
Jill G.

How have I managed to come so far when I was anxious for so long? Simple, I take my generic synthroid, get my thyroid levels checked, and I use Panic Away. I invite you to try this powerful method to put yourself in control of your fear- works like a charm. :)

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29 Responses to The Thyroid and Anxiety

  1. suzette lampman says:

    Hi I just came up with non stop panic attacks that wont quit. Ive been to lots a doctors and tons of blood tests and they would keep coming back normal. I just received results to a new blood test and it came back hypothyroidism my thyroid is not working the doctor told me. I have severe bouts of dizziness it feels as if im litterally on a merry go round and I was wondering does anyone else have theses symptoms. I also have pressure in my head all day long like my brain is being sqeezed. I tried levothyroxine and it sent me to the roof with svere panick heart hurting and shaking out of control. I am so afraid of the thyroid medication but I know I need it have no energy its all nervous energy it drains me. I have severe depression as well.
    Thank you suzette

    • JillG says:

      Hi Suzette,
      It almost sounds as if your levothyroxine dose was too high. Could that have been the case? I have to get my thyroid function levels checked at least twice a year because it does go up and down. When I had severe depression, my psychiatrist handled the thyroid medication — he said there was a correlation.
      I’m glad they finally found the root of a lot of your distress — your hypothyroidism. Now you need to get on the correct dosage of levothyroxine so you can feel better.
      A lot of your symptoms may be related to your thyroid being out of whack. And hypothyroidism does not always show up on blood tests, so good for you that you pressed on despite the blood tests coming back normal.
      Best of luck to you and (((hugs)))
      Jill

      • Olivia says:

        I have had 4 episodes where it has come back abnormal this past year. And I constantly get the increase . I get so agree when will this battle ease. I started with 88mcg then 100 ,125 , 137 + 5mg, now 150mcg…I notice when I have a major life issues with family where I get so angered that there is a fire in my stomach that it last for weeks.. Then here we go abnormal test I can’t control it .. Or do u think I may have something wrong with another organ that it becomes abnormal??

  2. suzette lampman says:

    Thank you for the response. I am still batteling panic and anxiety and trying to level out my throid am trying the natural thyroid had problems at first so I’m lowering the dose myself. I have a psychiatrist I’m seeing as well and he doesn’t seem to think hypothyroidism can cause panic but I believe that is the culprit. I heard when your thyroid is going on the blink it tries so hard to compensate that it fluctuates hyper to hypo and unless more studies are done we have to just deal with it. Thank you Suzette

  3. JillG says:

    I’m with you Suzette, I believe they are related.

    Have you tried a program like Panic Away for your anxiety? It really works, I use it myself. It could give you some blessed relief.

    Best of luck to you.

    ((Hugs)),
    Jill

  4. Dina says:

    I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and in Jan. 2009 I had a total removal done on my thyroid and cancer along with my lymph nodes…. about a year before I was diagnosed I started having extreme panic anxiety attacks along with the shakes..I kept going to doctor and emergency and had all kinds of tests and was put on xanax and was basically told thats all that it was…anxiety.. I knew it had to be something else and it was driving me crazy because I was normal one day then all of a sudden my life changed with theses attacks…One day a doctor examining me noticed a lump on my throat and asked how long I had it…I was unaware of the lump and didnt know, so all my thyroid tests always can back normal even though I ended up having this full blown cancer. After I had it removed and began levothroid I had become completely normal and felt as if i had my normal life back….until a few weeks ago ..my doctor keeps raising my dose explaining that it has to stay high to keep the cancer away….well this last dosage I beleive is too high because Im all of a sudden getting these feelings again especially around my period. Anyways my point is I beleive 100% that the thyroid and anxiety go hand in hand…..there is no doubt…and always be your own advacate…you know your body…you know when something is not right …keep going till they find something..dont give up…Im about to email my doctor to lower my dose…Good luck to you all

    • JillG says:

      Thank you for sharing your story Dina. This is great advice. Yes, you know your body better than anyone and you know how you feel. Congratulations on being on the other side of your cancer, and good luck with your anxiety.
      ((hugs)),
      Jill

  5. Waheeda says:

    Hi there,

    Im also sufferring aniety attacks since my first attck last November due to over anger in me, and i couldnt cry was confused. I got all the anxiety symptoms and was rushed to the doc, and he said it was an axiety attack.. since then i was on lexatonils and also anitidepressants but once now and then i got an attack but one day it was too severe till i had to think of something else. i changed doctor and was asked to go for thyroid check, with several blood tests, the result showed i was hypothyroid, so i was prescribed levothyroxine, 50mcg with 3mg lexatonil at night and 1.5mg in th day. For the month i tried that and realized the anxiety is getting less though at times i feel i ants to comes but i try to relax. I believe levathyroxine plays a role in controlling the attacks. Ive lowered my lexatonil dose to half, and try to avoid stressful places or talks or to even get over excited. Parying to God for cure also has a major role in this.It all has to go hand in hand.

    • JillG says:

      Hi Waheeda,

      Good for you that you got your hypothyroidism diagnosed. And I agree with you about prayer. Faith is a wonderful tool for coping with anxiety.

  6. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for this post – I recently developed hypothyroidism. It was been horrible to live and try to function with the symtpoms and when I finally realized that I was not crazy and needed to go the doctor – all of my numerous labs have come back normal. I am on my 5th doctor and he is finally listening but still so heavily TSH focused regardless of my symtpoms. I recently have started have severe, severe anxiety attacks that come out of nowhere. I have been going to therapy to help cope with the plethora of symptoms that get in the way of every day life. I have read hundreds of articles on line from doctor’s that say a person can still be hypothyroid and have all normal bloodwork. I wish I could find a doctor who believes the same thing but it makes me feel good to finally hear someone in the medical profession say that is the case! Everyone in person tells me no, no, no – the labs are always right. If you have any recommendations on how to find a good thyroid doctor, please let me know!

  7. james says:

    It is always necessary to have right level of thyroid hormone in the blood to function the system properly.

  8. lisa says:

    After 23 years of panic, anxiety, depression issues, I finally went to a doctor that diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. My life has been a living hell and have destroyed many relationships because of it. It is very important to find a doctor that will test for free T3 and free T4. That is the solution. I just recently lowered my thyroid dose to 150mcg because the anxiety was getting bad again and it does get worse before my menstrual cycle. If only there was more research and knowledge out there, more of us could have a normal life! :(

    • JillG says:

      Hi Lisa,

      I’m sorry you went through so many years of suffering, but hopefully now that you’ve been properly diagnosed, you will be able to tune into your body’s rhythms better and hopefully your anxiety will diminish. Mine gets worse around my menstrual cycle too.

      I agree, I wish there were more research into the thyroid and anxiety. My doctor still dismisses any connection.

  9. Jessica says:

    First, it makes me feel better right away knowing that I am not the only one with these problems, I appreciate everyone posting so people like me can read and feel comfort. In 2009 I was diagnosed with discoid Lupus (only affects the skin) and no doctor decided to warn me if you have one auto-immune disease your chances of getting another are higher. After a scary 2 day anxiety attack I went to my doc and they did check my Lupus blood work and was pretty much told take these anti-anxiety pills. I have never taken anything like that and never got it filled, took about a month for me to almost feel normal again. I pushed myself to see an Endo and he found the goiter and i got a biopsy and was told I have Hashimotos but my blood work was fine so have a nice day. Now around my period usually a week or so before it I will have little episodes of anxiety. I decided that I am going to call my regular doc and see if there is any other way to just help with my anxiety the once or twice a month I get other than taking anti-anxiety meds. I will have anxiety about takeing the anti-anxiety pills if that makes sense to anyone.

    • JillG says:

      Yes, having one autoimmune disease makes it more likely that you could develop others. And a lot of people don’t want to take anxiety medication, that is really common. Have you looked into natural supplements like PureCalm? I use it in place of taking extra medication and it is very effective. You can read more about it here. Take care.

  10. Kelly M says:

    It seems most of the posts relate to pre-thyroid diagnosis. In my case the anxiety/panic attacks started after my thyroid was removed (cancer). I started having anxiety attacks shortly after my surgery but were very spread apart and didn’t think it was related. They cntd to increase over the first six months. This past feb. I had a giant attack and went to the ER because I thought I was having a heart attack. My Endo dropped down my dosage from 175 to 150 and that’s when the real trouble started and I was in a constant state of panic everyday and was getting depressed. I tried to reach my Endo a few times to have my dose increased back to the original dosage but didn’t hear from him so this went on until may. I went to see a psychiatrist because I thought I was losing my mind. He felt this could be directly related to my dosage. I called my Endo again to increase dose and finally succeeded. It’s been about two weeks now and the Panic and anxiety has almost vanished. Thank god because I was spiraling. I see him next week.

    Hope that is beneficial to someone.

    Kelly M

  11. Lynn Barry says:

    Thank you for confirming for me that I am not crazy. I sat alone in my room filled with anxiety after a rough night’ssleep and wondered if jt was thyroid and Hashimoto related. It is…so thanks!

    • JillG says:

      Well it certainly could be related. Hope you are getting your levels checked at least twice a year Lynn- when your thyroid hormones are at the right level, you tend to feel better. Be well!

  12. Sheila says:

    Hi.
    This was a very interesting read. Something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I was suffering from crazy sweats at random social situations. Hyperhidrosis I think it’s called. Anyway so I went to a male doctor because I knew something wasn’t right my body felt wrong. Doctor told me to lose weight! I was barely overweight!! Absolutely embarassed with no tests no answers I carried on for 4yrs moved town went to a wonderful female doctor who did all blood tests found I was suffering from hypothyroidism!! The relief to have a answer. A lot is better now hair loss metabolism, periods are much better! Sorry long story short what I’ve found is I personally think it’s my anxiety that is effecting my thyroid I’ve always been a worrier and that has effected my body. They say yoga helps hypothyroidism this makes me think that perhaps if ones mind is at peace the body soon heals itself. I’m now on anxiety meds too scared to take them but will do. I’m normally a very happy person. Its just those certain situations which send my nerves into random overdrive,Prayer is soo good for the heart and mind. I will keep you updated if my anxiety settles whether that has any positive effects on my thyroid.
    All the best to everyone x

    • JillG says:

      So glad you got a 2nd opinion and are feeling better Sheila. I agree with you that the body at peace heals itself. Also, I find that prayer and yoga help with everything. Keep us posted on your wonderful progress!

  13. veevee14@comcast.net says:

    Hello all,
    I strongly encourage looking at your cholesterol levels as well. There is a correlation between cholesterol levels and anxiety/depression. I suffered from anxiety, depression and severe panic attacks for a couple of years and that also corelated with a very low cholesterol level (80-90 total cholesterol.) At the time, doctors were applauding my wonderful cholesterol level but I have now learned that it was leading to my panic attacks and depression. I have been able to raise my cholesterol a little (120ish range) and have not suffered these type of symptoms since. This has been many years later, but have had two doctors confirm the corelation between the two.
    Best wishes,
    Valerie

  14. serenavcampbell@gmail.com says:

    I totally agree about the link between hypothyroidism and panic attacks. Although, i’m looking at it the opposite way around from most of you. As in panic attacks causing thyroid problems. 10 years ago i used to suffer with panic attacks, i went to CBT based therapy for almost 3 years and learned how to control panic and dealt with a lot of emotional problems. I haven’t looked back until recently when i was diagnosed with an under active thyroid. I’m wondering if my panic attacks or controlling of them i.e. my body going into a freeze like state and then to self talk myself so panic would not start (if that makes sense), if this caused my thyroid to slow down. I would be interested if anybody else had this experience.

  15. Holli says:

    I’m so happy to have found this. i am a 29 year old female who was healthy one day and not the next. i was diagnosed with Hashimotos about 7 months ago. for over a year and a half i have had this lightheaded foggy feeling in my head. like a pressure. i also have an intolerance to heat which seems to be getting worse. i cannot stand for more than 20 minutes bc the blood pools in my legs. ive been getting panic and anxiety episodes off and on for months but increasingly more often. i have been put on zoloft but it.makes me feel kind of fluttery in my stomach. my endo says my thyroid levels are normal. i am unable to function anymore bc of all of this. i don’t know what to do.

    • Dina says:

      Hi Holly,
      I get that same pressure feeling in my head and thats when I know Im about to have a bad couple days. Hate it and I havent figured out how to control it. I have read a Gluten free diet helps some people. Im starting that route. You should read about it.
      Good Luck to you.

  16. Dina says:

    If you havent been diagnosed with Hashimotos , Ask to get your antibodies tested. I have always thought I was both Hypo with Hyper attacks at time. Hashitmotos describes me perfectly and after 6 years I was just tested for it (even though I had 90% of the symptoms) Some doctors just dont listen…Keep going till someone does. Here is a link that describes Hashimotos.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hashimoto's_thyroiditis

  17. Morgan says:

    So I have been diagnosed with Silent Thyroiditis and have been in the “hyper” stage for quite a while. One of the worst symptoms was my severe anxiety and panic. Now, I am gaining my weight back and healing but my anxiety has not gone away. Anxiety/depression runs in my immediate family so I am not sure if the thyroiditis has just uncovered a serious underlying anxiety problem. Help please?

    • JillG says:

      Once anxiety starts it doesn’t usually just go away on its own. Also you say it runs in your family. You might have to speak to a therapist to get a better handle on it. If self help is your route, I highly suggest you look into the Panic Away program, it helped me very much. Good luck to you.

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