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Relationship Between Hyperthyroidism and Anxiety

Sally-Anne Soameson, Psychiatrist
Relationship Between Hyperthyroidism and Anxiety

Your thyroid gland releases a hormone called thyroid hormone. When your thyroid hormone is too high, you may suffer from what is known as hyperthyroidism; a condition where your thyroid produces too much of its hormone in the body.

An overactive thyroid is not always a problem. There are those with hyperthyroidism that show no symptoms, or show symptoms so minor that they never realize they have a thyroid problem. But in some cases, an overactive thyroid gland can lead to severe anxiety, possibly with panic attacks.

Understanding Your Anxiety

If you suspect you have hyperthyroid, you need to talk to your doctor. There are very easy blood tests that can tell you if you have this condition. Many people self diagnose because they are convinced their anxieties should be physical, and while hyperthyroid is not a rare condition (it affects 2% of women and 0.2% of men) it is not likely to be the cause of your anxiety. 

So make sure you see your doctor first, and note that even if you have hyperthyroid, your anxiety may still have developed for reasons unrelated to your thyroid hormone.

Anxiety as a Symptom of Hyperthyroidism

If you have been diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, it is possible that it is one of the contributing factors to your anxiety. In fact, anxiety is considered one of the most likely effects of hyperthyroidism.

The thyroid hormone essentially activates the entire body. It speeds up your body's metabolism in a way that causes your entire sympathetic nervous system to be more active. That means that not only are you experiencing anxiety, you are also experiencing:

If these look like anxiety symptoms, that is because they are. That's one of the reasons that it is hard to tell the difference between anxiety produced by an overactive thyroid and anxiety that is caused by something else. The two share many of the exact same symptoms, making it very difficult to distinguish them from each other clinically without a blood test.

And one of the reasons they may be difficult to distinguish is because they are both anxiety. Even if an overactive hormone is causing that anxiety, it is still anxiety nonetheless.

Symptoms Causing Anxiety

Similarly, the two can develop simultaneously, but the cause may not be as clear. Some people may develop anxiety not because their thyroid hormone is causing it, but because their thyroid hormone is causing other strange symptoms that lead to anxiety. Hyperthyroid causes many symptoms that can cause their own separate anxiety, such as:

These symptoms,along with many others,can develop into anxiety because they are so foreign to the person experiencing them. Any time someone experiences strange sensations they run the risk of developing nervousness and anxiety as a result, especially if some of those symptoms,like heart palpitations, are frightening.

Fighting Your Anxiety and Your Hyperthyroidism

Because hyperthyroid is a medical condition, you need to talk to your doctor. There are many very safe ways of managing an overactive thyroid, and your doctor will talk to you about the method that works best for you.

But note that it is difficult to know if anxiety will go away, and it is in your best interests to continue to focus on ways to reduce your anxiety, like exercise, proper eating, and various relaxation strategies. You may even want to see a therapist if there is one in your area.

Article Resources
  1. Simon, Naomi M., et al. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in anxiety disorders revisited: new data and literature review. Journal of affective disorders 69.1 (2002): 209-217.
  2. Kathol, R. G., and J. W. Delahunt.The relationship of anxiety and depression to symptoms of hyperthyroidism using operational criteria. General hospital psychiatry 8.1 (1986): 23-28. 
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