Feeling Depressed? It Could Be Your Thyroid

How an underactive thyroid can be making you miserable

When we’re feeling emotional, irritable, or just plain sad, most of us naturally attribute the shift to faulty, neurological wiring, right? After all, depression and anxiety are mental health issues, and often a result of an imbalance of the chemicals in our brains.

Yeah. Except when they aren’t.

What are we talking about? Well, and if you are feeling down in the dumps, the problem may actually originate in your neck, and not necessarily in your overburdened mind. Hypothyroidism, a term that is unfortunately becoming more prevalent in today’s society, simply refers to your thyroid gland’s inability to produce enough hormone to keep the body running smoothly. Everything from physical functions to psychological processing, an underactive thyroid can affect even the most mentally strong individual. (Hence why we say that an underactive thyroid can literally make you miserable.)

Luckily, thyroid problems including an underactive thyroid are diagnosable with a blood test, and a form of replacement therapy with the assistance of synthetic hormones is generally an effective treatment. However, and despite our ability to detect and treat hypothyroidism and the advancements in the field of medical technology, many people still go untreated. If you’re feeling sluggish, tired, or emotional, perhaps the following information may help you better understand the importance of thyroid health.

What exactly is the thyroid?

Good question. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland that is normally located in the lower front of the neck (go on, we know you’re reaching for it). The thyroid’s job is to produce thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Impressive, right? Simply, the thyroid hormone helps the body use energy, regulate temperature, and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should, which, as we are sure you can agree, are all vitally important. Furthermore, the hormones produced by the thyroid affect your metabolism, which means they determine how much energy your body ultimately burns. Such a process affects everything from mood and energy levels, to appetite and mental clarity, so the symptoms of an underactive thyroid can vary greatly, making it difficult to diagnose without a specific blood test.

How to identify an underactive thyroid

Like we said earlier, it’s not always easy to pinpoint the problem. Actually, symptoms can sometimes be written off to a long day, interrupted sleep, stress, and other factors that we often associate with the rigours of everyday life. When thyroid hormone levels are too low, however, the body’s cells can’t get enough thyroid hormone and all the body’s important processes start slowing down. As the body slows, you may notice that you feel colder, you tire easily, no matter how many hours of sleep you get. You may also notice drier skin, an increase in forgetfulness, a building depression, and even the indignity of feeling constipated. Again, and because the symptoms are so variable and nonspecific, the only way to know for sure whether you have an underactive thyroid, is with a simple blood test for thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH for short. Unfortunately, hypothyroidism is most common in women, and their symptoms can also include menstrual cycle changes.

What causes an underactive thyroid?

An underactive thyroid can often diminish one’s quality of life (before being properly treated of course) so understanding why it happens in the first place might be a good starting point. Because the body needs iodine to effectively produce enough thyroid hormone, getting too much or too little iodine in your diet is the leading worldwide cause of thyroid disorders. Iodine comes into the body in food and travels through the blood to the thyroid, nourishing it in ways in which keep everything balanced. Keeping thyroid hormone production healthy and adequate, thus requires the right amount of iodine

The second most common cause of an underactive thyroid is called Hashimoto’s disease.

In some people, the immune system that protects the body from invading infections can often mistake thyroid gland cells and their enzymes for harmful invaders…and will ultimately attack them. Not good. As a result, and because of the internal attacks, there simply aren’t enough thyroid cells and enzymes left to produce enough hormone, resulting in, and yep, you guessed it, an underactive and ineffective thyroid. This again, is more common in women than men.

Other causes include disorders of the pituitary gland, radiation treatment to the neck area, and even some medications that have been proven to directly affect healthy thyroid function (such as amiodarone or lithium.) As you can see, there are quite a few pitfalls out there when it comes to avoiding the health issues involved of an underactive thyroid gland, so it is best to stay vigilant.

Treatment is effective

With all the doom and gloom, and the physical symptoms and the psychological stress that an underactive thyroid can create, treatment is usually effective. By replacing the hormone that your own thyroid can no longer produce, in fact, (with synthetic hormones) you can bring your thyroid hormones back to normal, healthy levels, and be able to live a happy life. So, even if your thyroid gland isn’t as healthy as it could be or is indeed, underactive, rest assured that hormone replacement therapy can restore your body’s natural function.

And that should be enough to put a smile on your face.