The Thyroid and Mental Health

June 29, 2012

I recently learned from my routine annual blood test that my thyroid is hyperactive.  Since getting the results, questions have been running through my mind as to what could be causing my thyroid to overwork.  My thyroid has been checked regularly over the years and the results have been fine so why am I having the problem now?

I was aware that an overactive thyroid can cause symptoms of anxiety disorder.  I was also aware that an underactive thyroid can cause symptoms of depression.  I knew that mothers experiencing postpartum mood disorders should always have their thyroid checked but I did not realize how intertwined mental health and the thyroid are until I began researching my own situation.

According to, the thyroid gland is located on the front part of the neck below the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple). The gland produces thyroid hormones, which regulate body metabolism. Thyroid hormones are important in regulating body energy, the body’s use of other hormones and vitamins, and the growth and maturation of body tissues.

Diseases of the thyroid gland can result in either production of too much (overactive thyroid disease or hyperthyroidism), too little (underactive thyroid disease or hypothyroidism) thyroid hormone, thyroid nodules, and/or goiter. All types of thyroid problems in women are much more common than thyroid problems in men.

The more I learned about the thyroid, the more I realized its importance in our health including our mental health.  According to an article published by the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, attention has been given to the relationship between thyroid function and mental disorders for the following reasons:

  • Thyroid disorders, such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, can be accompanied by prominent mental abnormalities.
  • Thyroid hormones have been used in the treatment of certain psychiatric conditions.
  • Some drugs used for the treatment of mental illness can have an effect on the thyroid gland.


The article goes on to discuss the mental abnormalities associated with thyroid disorders.  In the case of hyperthyroidism (overactive), common psychological symptoms are anxiety and tension; mood changes; irritability and impatience; overactivity; sensitivity to noise. Psychological symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive) are slowing of mental processing; loss of initiative and interest; memory difficulties; muddled thinking; depression.

Of course these symptoms may be associated with mental illness when there is not a thyroid disorder but most definitely, anyone experiencing such symptoms should have their doctor order blood work to rule out a thyroid disorder.  In addition, some psychiatric drugs have been found to affect the thyroid so anyone taking psychiatric drugs should have their thyroid regularly monitored.  Hence, the reason for the discovery of my hyperactive thyroid.

In my case, the psychological symptoms are not present.  Instead, I have only been dealing with the physical symptoms of an overactive thyroid, such as a rapid heartbeat, increased sensitivity to heat, bowel changes and sleep disturbances.

Since the exact cause of my overactive thyroid is uncertain at this time (although I suspect it is related to diet and supplement use), I will try to calm my overactive thyroid with some nutritional and natural remedies that I learned about while doing my research.  I figure it can not hurt to try while I wait the three months it is going to take to get in to see the endocrinologist.

Sadly, I learned that individuals with an overactive thyroid should avoid chocolate, coffee, salt, and black tea.  All things I enjoy.  But I will be able to drink lots of green tea and lemon balm tea.  I will increase my intake of broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, peaches, onions and spinach.  The diet changes won’t be difficult since I love those foods anyway but I will miss coffee and chocolate.

I would love to hear from anyone who has had an overactive thyroid and to learn what has worked for them in getting it regulated.  Please be sure to comment on my blog page.