Can an Underactive Thyroid Cause Depression?

Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs when the thyroid gland is under active. It fails to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. The thyroid hormones are responsible for maintaining the correct metabolic rate. When the levels of the thyroid hormones drop too low, for example as a result of hypothyroidism, the metabolism slows down. Many different symptoms can occur as a result of hypothyroidism. One of the most common and most significant symptoms is depression.

Many of the people who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism come to their doctor because of their depression. They often expect to be told that they are depressed and to be prescribed antidepressants. In some cases, they may even be misdiagnosed with depression and given treatment that cannot help them. If the cause of the depression is hypothyroidism, it requires treatment with thyroid hormone tablets and not with antidepressants.

Once treatment for hypothyroidism has been initiated and the levels of the thyroid hormones in the body have returned to normal, the symptoms caused by the condition should go away. In most cases, depression that is caused by hypothyroidism will disappear once treatment is received, although it can take some time for the correct dosage to be found.

If the depression is not cured by the hypothyroidism treatment, then it may be necessary to change the dosage or the medication. The dosage may need to be raised if symptoms such as depression are still being experienced. It usually takes some time to find the best dosage for a particular patient. Regular blood tests will need to be taken every two to three months after the treatment is started. The levels of thyroid hormones in the blood will be measured, and the dosage adjusted accordingly. After the correct dosage has been found, it will only be necessary to undergo blood tests once a year, in order to ensure that the dosage is still working.

Another option, if the treatment for hypothyroidism has not solved the problem of depression, is to try changing the medication. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone T4. The thyroid gland actually produces two different hormones, however, and some patients respond better when they receive a treatment that combines synthetic forms of both of these thyroid hormones, T4 and T3. Changing to the combined medication could help to alleviate depression that has not been helped by treatment with synthetic T4 on its own.

In some cases, treatment for hypothyroidism alone will not help cure the depression. It may be necessary for the patient to take antidepressants in addition to their hypothyroidism medication.


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