Miss Diagnosis

Thyroid and Bipolar: Miss Diagnosis

Under a doctor’s care for hypothyroidism, a Hypothyroid Mom reader named Courtney Rundell ended up in a mental hospital and was misdiagnosed Bipolar. A year later, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease that can cause symptoms of both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Neither her psychiatrist nor endocrinologist reconsidered her bipolar diagnosis.

She took psychiatric medications for 7 years, even during pregnancy. After childbirth, she experienced postpartum psychosis, chronic illness and the 4 psychiatric medications she took daily to survive stopped working.

Written by Courtney Rundell

Do I really have bipolar disorder?

This has been the question rolling around in my neuron-trap since discovering that my severely low thyroid hormones have been the root of my recent mental instability.

It’s a lot to process, heck, it’s a total mindf*ck.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis at 25 and was told it only meant that I had to take a pill every day for the rest of my life. After a few months, I threw out the pills because it was just too much responsibility for me. For the next several years, I had panic attacks, chills, mania, depression, constipation and severe fatigue. I even had vertigo for 2 years.

I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s again at 29 and was finally mature enough by then to take my medication.

I followed the protocol – bloodwork every 6 months and medication – and I never thought twice about it. I was still having panic attacks, manic episodes and depression, but I only related the constipation, vertigo and chills to Hashimoto’s probably because I was too embarrassed to tell my doctor about the mental stuff.

I’ve always had deep shame about my mental issues because I’ve always thought somehow, someway, it was my fault. That if I would just do something different, I would be sane.

Ends up the meds I was taking – Synthroid for a few years, then Levothyroxine for the past few years – aren’t the only thyroid treatment options available.

This is all new information to me.

Many women have been misdiagnosed bipolar when they really were dealing with hypothyroidism. Today I discovered this article from Hypothyroid Mom that blew my mind. Dana shared a story of a reader who went through hell with misdiagnosis.

There are published studies making obvious the relationship between bipolar and Hashimoto’s, but the medicine bipolar patients take called Lithium often causes Hashimoto’s which only gets a chicken/egg debate going full steam.

So which came first, Hashimoto’s or bipolar?

When I was diagnosed bipolar in the mental hospital everything made sense. My “happy attacks,” my ability to sleep for days, my drug and alcohol addiction.

It took me about 3 years to fully process and accept the diagnosis of bipolar. It was a grieving process in many ways. Somedays I was in acceptance, other days denial, other days sadness, disbelief, and rage.

I was 33 when I was hospitalized – it had been 8 years since my first Hashimoto’s diagnosis at that time, although I did have a sponsor (who was also a therapist) question whether I was bipolar or not around 25 or 26.

Am I an alcoholic/addict?

I was 7 years sober when I was diagnosed bipolar. I was easy to diagnose because I was sober and the doctor told me that when I was in my alcoholism, I was merely self-medicating my mania and depression with drugs and alcohol.

I loved booze and speed – up and down, down and up, weeee and yay.

Maybe if I get balanced, I can drink like a normal person? Oh, but I can’t drink on lithium and…

Unfortunately, the answer was and is still a resounding yes, you are an alcoholic. When I put alcohol in my body, it hits my chemistry differently than a normal drinker. Most people get a little sleepy and happy. Not me. Alcohol hits me like speed – I go fast, faster, fastest – but it’s never fast enough, so I need some coke, or meth, or crank.

Or whatever you’re holding.

The other telltale sign is the Godzilla-sized phenomenon of craving that hits me; I lose all power of choice once I’ve ingested booze. I go to the bar with the intention of having 4 drinks – seriously, who has one? – and going home. Then I kick myself when I order drinks 5, 6 and 7 and…

I can’t stop. I know, I tried time and time again.

So that was horrible news. I was not only alcoholic, but also bipolar. Great. This meant to recover I had to continue to work hard staying sober, but I also add a whole new program to treat the bipolar disorder.

And the PTSD. That was my other diagnosis in the psych ward, but after surviving my childhood, I never denied that one. But it was time for me to finally deal with my dark past, not just admit it was horrible. And I did. I not only went to therapy for over 6 years – over 2 of those years I went twice a week – I also did my homework, dream work, hypnosis – the whole deal. And I religiously saw my psychiatrist and took my medications – never missing a dose, never running out of a prescription.

And I got free. Before my miscarriage, I was in a 3 year remission.

And then I got pregnant and everything that worked before no longer worked. Here’s the deal, nothing screws up a thyroid problem more than pregnancy hormones – check out Dana’s story at Hypothyroid Mom.

My chemistry hasn’t been the same since pregnancy. My postpartum mania and depression were probably directly associated to my thyroid. And the suicidal depressions and sleeping comas over the past year are definitely Hashimoto’s. I really do think this is the reason I haven’t been able to bounce back after Baby.

But the Postpartum psychosis and OCD? I’m not seeing any relationships between these and Hashimoto’s – so far.

So what’s the answer?

I. Don’t. Know.

That’s the answer.

I need to process this. Write about it. Make lists. Blogging and researching certainly helps. And all you amazing, supportive friends in the blogosphere I’ve made since starting my blog throw me great links and articles all the time.

Thank you and please keep it coming.

My gut tells me that I’m not going to get off so easy. I would love nothing more than to not be bipolar, trust me, but there are a few facts that just don’t tie into thyroid no matter how hard I spin them.

I’m peeling away more layers of this onion for sure and I’m so grateful for answers. Yes, answers bring more questions, but I cannot deny the joy of having answers.

I can sum it up best by stealing what one of my girlfriends (who’s in a similar boat as I am) texted me today:

My bottom line is no matter the diagnosis, I can’t drink, I can’t eat sh*t, I need supplements and thyroid meds, so I don’t need a label, I just want to feel better now.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. Now is the time to get well – that must be the focus. It’s a long road ahead, but – I hope – a longer road behind. I’m just making sure I’m on the right one heading in the right direction for today.

About Courtney Rundell

After writing this article, Courtney finally found out the cause of her failing mental state after finding a D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine) who ran a complete thyroid panel. She had massive deficiencies in iodine, T3, cortisol, progesterone, zinc, magnesium and D3. Improperly treated Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Adrenal Fatigue were the cause of decades of suffering.

READ NEXT: When thyroid disease masquerades as psychiatric disorder

Take Back Your Thyroid Health! Sign up and never miss a post - it's FREE

I appreciate every share! Thank you.

About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.


  1. I was diagnosed bipolar at age 23 after a psychotic hospitalization. I had one more hospitalization after the birth of my first child. I have been on medication for bipolar for 16 years. In the last 6 years I have learned more about hypothyroidism and that diagnosis. I am newly diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and this has made me reconsider my bipolar diagnosis. If Hashimoto’s was the real cause of my episodes, the relief of that news would be welcome. I hope more research in the comorbidy of these illnesses will provide more answers.

  2. One of the most important thing when dealing with thyroid is educate yourself.
    You will need to be ready to fight for yourself. There are thyroid doctors that refuse to use natural medications! If you have stomach issues your body will do better on natural medications.You will find that an D.O. Doctor of internal medicine is a better fit if your struggle with your thyroid! They look at total body wellness which is crucial for someone with thyroid issues! I have recently saw a Immunologist I have never experienced a doctor so through or more caring! He actually took my files home with him before my appt and read my file the whole thing and told me many mistakes had been made with me but he was going to help me turn things around my first appt was 3hrs with him the most amazing experience to actually be heard and validated! He all believed in a whole body wellness approach! It’s crucial to get eating healthy, exercising and vitamins to become as healthy as you can be in order to heal your thyroid. Thyroid issues have a strong correlation to a leaky gut! Thyroid med. is taken orally process through your digestion if there is a absorption problem there comes the ups and downs when your stomach issues flair expect thyroid problems! I drink everyday in my water 1tablespoon honey to 1Tbsp. Of apple cider vinegar to 8 oz of water (or Gatorade etc) I cant tell you how that’s helped to stabilize my stomach issues added benefit I don’t get sick as easy as I used to. Get the healthiest you can or you will struggle your whole life! Last important info know what tests should be done there are 5 most doctors will do two it’s like pulling teeth to get them to do all 5 that is why people go so long undiagnosed! God bless all of you on your journey!

  3. This article was so helpful in that it comforted me that I am not alone. I am sad that so many are struggling the way I do. All the years I’ve researched… all roads lead to my Hashimoto’s.

  4. I think it is possible that it is both….i was diagnosed with depression & anxiety at 6, at 14 bipolar, at 22 bipolar ¹¹ with anxiety & ptsd, i am 40 now taking 5 daily psych meds but i was diagnosed with hypothyroid after a 3 yr no meds for pregnancy bc my husband is allergic to the lithium so i didn’t want to risk it dxd a yr after last 3rd child born with hypothyroid. took synthroid but psych wouldn’t put me on meds tried many related to even the healthier knock off but nothing was working so i got off synthroid back on psych meds now i can’t find an endo to listen. but they won’t have a choice i won’t stop till i get answers bc my goiters 5 are taking over & my depression is horrible. Anyway my theory for me is that the lithium replaces the seratonin that my brain lacks (maybe) & it makes my thyroid level look normal functioning does that make sense to you???? But now I’m taking antibiotics for a uti and the one i am on is really messing with my gi tract so i checked & this antibiotic can cause flares in hashimotos also i supposedly have ibs but I’m thinking hashimotos .. Of course getting the proper trying & An endo to listen is going to feel like pulling teeth with no numbing agent

  5. Jessica Reffned says

    I am dealing with similar issues with my 12 year old daughter , she tells me her brain just tells her that no one likes has and to be sad . She goes through bouts of insomnia. She sees a therapist but for some reason these doctors constantly want to find a reason a.k.a. life situation for her depression and anxiety instead of the fact that it eight years old her TSH was 73.5, and her TPO antibodies were in the 600s. She takes her medication regularly but if she even misses one dose We See a quick decline. Do you other medications work? Like anti-anxiety or antidepressant?

  6. I have a friend that was locked up in mental institute due to psychosis that ended up being directly linked to a hyperactive thyroid so your psychosis could be related to your Hashimoto’s?

  7. What, may I ask, were your TSH levels? I’m bipolar and have Hashimoto’s but both were just diagnosed this year. I can trace bipolar mania back to my 20s (I think, it’s hard looking back that far and trying to decide what was normal young person stuff and what was mania) after having a baby or two. I didn’t get a low thyroid blood reading until ten or fifteen years later. Them again, if I never complained about anything like that, would a different have run it routinely????

    I suspect I’m both but it sure does feel nice to imagine that the thyroid did it all and can be treated so much easier.

Speak Your Mind