Adult ADD/ADHD is a very common condition with over 3 million cases per year in the U.S. alone. Additionally, more individuals are now experiencing feelings of depression and/or brain fog. Is any of this true for you? Well, did you know or has your thyroid doctor told you that thyroid hormones can affect your behavior?
Thyroid imbalances affect our cognitive function, change our perceptions, attention, reasoning, and memory, and can certainly affect our behavior and mimic symptoms commonly mistaken for hyperactivity or depression. When these symptoms appear, most of us believe we need a psychiatrist, not a physical checkup.
Thyroid hormones may be compromised in individuals who have experienced chronic stress, history of yo-yo dieting, obesity, and insulin resistance. People with diseases such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune disease, and even those experiencing PMS symptoms, are more prone to developing a thyroid hormone imbalance as well.
Thyroid hormones control our metabolism, body temperature, heart health, kidneys, reproductive system, and our brain. It has become increasingly apparent that thyroid function significantly affects the brain and our behavior. Many symptoms of thyroid imbalance can be very similar to those presented to a mental health practitioner.
- Anxiety or tension
- Easily distracted
- Irritability or tension
- Emotional lability
- Sensitivity to noise
- No appetite
A person with an under active thyroid is diagnosed with a condition called hypothyroidism. It is believed that 10 million Americans suffer from hypothyroidism. More women than men suffer from this disease and the chance of developing it increases with age. One in five women will develop hypothyroidism by the age of 60.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to symptoms of depression or other mental disorders. These symptoms include:
- Loss of interest or taking no initiative in life
- Muddled thinking
- Depression (sometimes appearing paranoid)
- Loss of memory
- Brain fog
- Poor concentration
- Slurred words
- Appearance of intoxication
Testing for Thyroid Problems
Many doctors will order bloodwork to check thyroid hormone levels. Unfortunately, most doctors only order basic testing such as a TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) test. This test can only determine how well the pituitary gland is communicating with the thyroid and does not measure the hormone levels or activity within the body. A TSH test could miss many individuals suffering with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, leading many to seek psychiatric help for their symptoms instead of treating the hormone imbalance.
Comprehensive testing should be done and include thyroid hormones such as Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), tissue thyroid levels, reflex rate test and basal metabolic rate. These tests are more effective in discovering the level and functionality of thyroid hormones.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) would be the safest choice in treating hypothyroidism. They are far more effective than synthetic hormones, such as Synthroid (an inactive thyroid hormone: T4) In certain cases of hypothyroidism the storage hormone, T4, has become unable to convert to the active hormone T3 which is needed to balance thyroid hormone levels. Treatment with Synthroid only hopes to promote the conversion. Bioidentical hormones can be formulated to your needs and can contain both T4 and T3 including time-released T3, making the conversion of T4 to active T3 much more effective.
Treatment of a hyperactive thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, may include antithyroid medication, beta blockers, or radioactive iodine. These medications have different effects on the thyroid. Antithyroid medications reduce the excess thyroid hormones being produced. Beta blockers treat symptoms such as rapid heart rate or palpitations. Radioactive iodine, taken by mouth, is absorbed by the thyroid to reduce the size of the gland, slowing thyroid activity down. A thyroidectomy may be indicated only in severe cases and should be the last option in treating hyperthyroidism.
Treatment may also include nutritional supplements to help balance hormones, improve immune system functions and reduce inflammation. Selenium supplements can reduce antibodies and provide anti-inflammatory benefits. L-carnitine supplements have shown to help with the increased cellular needs created by hyperthyroidism, reversing or preventing symptoms of the disease. Low dose Naltrexone (LDN) has been very successful at significantly reducing anti-thyroid antibodies in individuals treated for autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
Getting to the bottom of what really may be affecting your mood or behavior is very important. A physical exam and bloodwork should always be done before seeking a mental health professional for treatment of your emotional symptoms. If thyroid imbalance is causing your hyperactivity, anxiety, or depression, it would be far more beneficial to seek a thyroid doctor to treat the imbalanced hormones rather than taking antidepressants or other drugs that are so commonly prescribed today.