The Link Between Thyroid Dysfunction and Anxiety

If you’re suddenly experiencing anxiety when you never have before, you may be surprised to learn that it could be due to thyroid dysfunction.  

 The thyroid gland acts as the control center for your body. Thyroid hormones produced in the thyroid gland communicate with your brain, heart, and other organs and muscles to properly use energy. 

 While anxiety is widely known as a mental health disorder, when it comes on suddenly without any history of anxiety, it may be tied to a physiological issue such as hyperthyroidism. 

 There are two types of thyroid disfunction: 

  • Hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, resulting in a slower metabolism. 
  • Hyperthyroidism, which occurs if your thyroid gland is overactive and produces too much thyroid hormone, which causes your metabolism to be excessively fast. 

 Both types are more common in women than men.  

 The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system makes antibodies that may destroy thyroid cells and stop them from making the thyroid hormone. The most common form of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease, in which your body produces an antibody that may overstimulate your thyroid gland. 

 The Thyroid/Energy Link 

Any dysfunction of the thyroid may cause anxiety, but most often the culprit is hyperthyroidism. Although hypothyroidism is commonly associated with depression, it may also cause anxiety. 

 The thyroid hormone is pivotal to the creation and regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin. 

 Low serotonin levels are linked to:  

  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Mood swings 

 When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, these neurotransmitters become erratic, potentially causing anxiety and panic attacks. Feelings of anxiety may worsen after discovering you have a thyroid disorder, but a physician can help treat this condition.  

 Please discuss with your primary care physician if you are feeling any changes in energy level, or new or worsening anxiety.

Author: Jalaja Joseph, M.D., Endocrinologist, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center