When Thyroid Disease Masquerades As Psychiatric Disorder

When thyroid disease masquerades as psychiatric disorder

One of my most popular posts at Hypothyroid Mom was a post entitled Mental Disorder or Undiagnosed Hypothyroidism? A reader contacted me soon after the launch of my blog in October 2012 with a story that has haunted me to this day.

Dear Dana,

I found your blog Hypothyroid Mom and feel a need to contact you directly. I was an energetic successful person and in one year I fell down and literally broke. I was put in a mental health ward because I went days without sleeping, felt so tired I couldn’t function and found myself delusional and couldn’t stop the words running through my head. I was diagnosed bipolar and drugged up with medication. I saw the line of bipolar patients waiting every morning in the psych ward for electric shock therapy. The only thing that saved me from electric shock was my mother yelling NO.

For four years I was drugged up so bad that my mind wasn’t right. I told the psychiatrists and doctors that something wasn’t right with me. From 110 pounds my weight went up to 245. I was so tired, suffered pains from fibromyalgia. My heart rate was pounding at 155 and my blood pressure was through the roof. They just kept telling me I was bipolar and that I was a hypochondriac.

Finally after 4 years of bipolar medications to the max, a close family member was diagnosed with hypothyroidism so my doctor tested me too. I have a family history of thyroid disease. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. I’ve suffered so many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism you list on your blog for so many years.

Every single time I attend a bipolar support group I ask everyone if they are hypothyroid and every time half the people raise their hand and the other half have no clue what it is and they don’t know if they have been tested.

Jana

This post sparked so much interest that many thyroid sufferers contacted me with their personal horror stories of psychiatric disorders. I can’t stop wondering how many fellow thyroid sufferers reading this post right now are struggling with mental health issues? Is it possible that many of them have been misdiagnosed?

Millions of Thyroid Sufferers

Ashok Bhaseen, President of Thyroid Federation International, said, “Thyroid disease is very common with an estimated 300 million currently affected and 1.6 billion people at risk of thyroid conditions globally. It is estimated that over 50% of those affected could be unaware of it.”

How many of them have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder?

How many are struggling with symptoms including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, aggression, bipolar, OCD, phobias, and schizophrenia?

How many of them end up in mental health wards?

How many of them fight suicidal thoughts?

How many thyroid sufferers suffer mental health issues despite their thyroid treatment?

How many thyroid sufferers on thyroid treatment complain to their doctor about psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety? Instead of looking more closely at the thyroid condition, the doctor insists their thyroid lab test is normal and hands them a prescription for psychotropic drugs.

I don’t know how many. However I worry that there are many thyroid sufferers in this situation, many more than we can even imagine.

This is not to suggest that mental health related drugs and treatment are not necessary for many people. There is no shame in receiving mental health related treatment. That is not what this article is about. They are extremely important and beneficial for many. The issue is that thyroid disease has the power to disturb mental health yet thyroid function is not routinely tested. There should be thyroid testing for every person displaying mental health symptoms. For individuals diagnosed with thyroid disease who continue to suffer mental health symptoms, a comprehensive investigation is needed to ensure they are being optimally treated.

Is this happening to YOU right now? Are you here reading this? Is this happening to a family member or friend? Get a second, third, fourth even tenth medical opinion until you find a doctor who listens to you – 30 online resources to find a good thyroid doctor.

Thyroid Antibodies

In mainstream medicine, doctors rely on one lab test TSH to diagnose and treat thyroid dysfunction. Countless thyroid sufferers have “normal” TSH but they suffer debilitating symptoms including mental health issues. A full thyroid panel should at least include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, Reverse T3, and Thyroid Antibodies, however all these tests are often NOT done by mainstream doctors. Hmm…

Even when thyroid antibodies for Hashimoto’s are tested and found to be high, mainstream doctors refuse to treat if the TSH is “normal”. Hmm…

In 1982 a study was published in The Journal of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine titled Psychiatric manifestations of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis:

The mental symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may precede the full-blown, classic picture of hypothyroidism. The psychiatric symptoms include various mental aberrations, depression, irritability, and confusion. Indeed, patients may be mislabeled as having psychotic depression, paranoid schizophrenia, or the manic phase of a manic depressive disorder. The workup must include a thorough evaluation of thyroid function, including tests for auto-antibodies. Patients usually respond favorably to thyroid replacement hormone therapy.

Hashimoto’s disease often comes with ups and downs in TSH like a wild roller coaster ride, with people suffering swings between symptoms of hyperthyroidism (hyperactivity, irritability, inability to sleep) and hypothyroidism (fatigue, depression). These swings back and forth, don’t they sound very similar to the swings in Bipolar Disorder (manic depression)? Hmm…

The standard care for Hashimoto’s sufferers is to wait until the body has attacked enough of the thyroid gland to trigger the TSH to rise above normal and then treat with thyroid drugs. Doctors refuse to treat until the patient’s TSH rises above “normal” yet all the while the body is attacking the thyroid gland and the person is suffering mental health symptoms. Hmm…

The standard care for Hashimoto’s fails to address the autoimmune condition. Doctors fail to consider all the potential underlying issues including gut issues, food sensitivities, gluten sensitivity, blood sugar imbalance, adrenal dysfunction, chronic inflammation, chronic infections, nutrient deficiencies, and heavy metal toxicity. Is it possible that by addressing the autoimmune condition in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis that the mental health symptoms may be resolved? Hmm…

T3 Thyroid Treatment

In mainstream medicine, T4 Levothyroxine drugs like Synthroid are the gold standard for treatment of hypothyroidism. Many doctors around the world refuse to prescribe different thyroid drug options including T3 medication and natural desiccated thyroid. Hmm…

The Holtorf Medical Group article Thyroid Dysfunction As Cause of Depression includes research showing the effectiveness of T3 in treating depression and bipolar.

Many depressed and bipolar patients have undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction as the underlying cause or major contributor to their depression that is not detected by standard thyroid tests…

With an understanding of thyroid physiology and associated dysfunctions that is present in depressed patients, it is clear that timed-released T3 supplementation should be considered in all depressed and bipolar patients despite “normal” serum thyroid levels. Additionally, straight T4 should be considered inappropriate and suboptimal therapy for replacement in such patients.

Kent Holtorf, MD is the medical director of the The Holtorf Medical Group. Here in this video (be sure to watch all the way to the end) he talks about thyroid tests and treatment errors. He shares a study that showed “T3 was a better anti-depressant than anti-depressants”.  Here’s more about the thyroid medication options including T3. Hmm…

 IT’S TIME FOR CHANGE.

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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. Connect with Dana on Google+

Comments

  1. Gillian Gehrke says:

    Gosh this is scary, I’ve been down this road and thankfully I haven’t seen a physiologist yet. But will be next week!! This sounds like my life up and down, highly anxious, depressed, terribly dreams – I wouldn’t want to go to sleep yet so exhausted just getting through the day. Falling asleep everywhere, hair loss, cealioc, Mosaic Downs Syndrome and Hypothyroidism. I’ve only just got onto a hypothyroidism diet after 29 years on being told just take this medicine. Was diagnosed ceoliac at 21 I’m now 33 and still suffering. I’ve only just started being in control – I’m sick of being told what to do… most of my life. Just take this or that. Don’t worry it’s all in your head. These stats are scary but also refreshing. Is there a good endocrinologist in Brisbane Australia I could see???? I need to see someone soon…

  2. Sharon Alberg says:

    Omg I think that I have had low thyroid all my life.
    In 2009 I was finally diagnosed low thyroid,surgery all my life I been depressed.In In 2000 I went on depression medicine I tried all kinds of medicine
    But nothing seems to work.Today they diagnosed me with bi-polar, I have chronic joint pain,I have chronic muscle pains and digestion problems.I
    Have been going to doctor to doctor trying to find someone who will believe me,but because I have mental illness they think it’s all in my head.

  3. I was hospitalized a few years ago with severe psychiatric symptoms (paranoid psychosis). I have a 20 year history of Grave’s Disease which morphed into Autoimmune Thyroiditis. I begged them to check my thyroid; heck, with that history! Well, they just checked my TSH and told me that all was fine. I was persistent but polite; to no avail. Everything is a nail when you are a hammer. At the time I was on state healthcare which I am sure has a lot to do with the lack of attention. I was referred to an endorcrinologist; my insurance made that an unattainable goal. So, over 3 years later I am diagnosed with hyper-parathyroidism and am on track for surgery. Check your Calcium! This disease is a tricky to diagnose.

  4. So, my relative is having similar problems as what I read above, but their thyroid was removed when they were younger with synthroid medicine prescribed and they have recently had these symptoms reported by others on these posts. The relative is in their 90’s now. Can this apply to someone who has had their thyroid removed?

    • Yes it can! I do not have a thyroid due to cancer and suffer with the roller coaster ride. I recently had enough and sought out a specialized endocrinologist. He diagnosed me with thyrotoxicosis. I would sugest looking into this and trying to find a specialist who deals with this as well as adrenal issues.

  5. Clairetta says:

    This isn’t about me. Well, in a way, it is. But mainly it’s about my daughter.

    2 years ago, I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. I was put on Levothyroxine, which made me terribly ill. So my physician put me on 15 Mg of Armour. It was like a light went on. I stopped being depressed, having weird thoughts, got more energy, joint pain stopped. She tested me two months later and upped my prescription to 30 Mg of Armour. I’ve been on it ever since.

    About 4 years ago, my daughter started having a lot of symptoms I did. She has been put on meds for panic attacks, depression and was diagnosed Bi-Polar with depressive tendencies. When that happened was when she went to a psychiatric hospital and during her stay there.

    Before all of this, she was capable of holding down a job, could go out in public by herself, didn’t have suicidal thoughts or panic attacks.

    I was doing some research about Hypothyroidism when a light bulb went off. Is it possible she has it, too? She has all the symptoms including what may be Fibromyalgia, which some Hypo patients suffer with. She has made many trips to ER’s only to be told she is just having a panic attack. They have treated her terribly because they seem to think she is a Hypochondriac. Now, some times, she won’t even go because she doesn’t want to be treated like one or put down.

    Her problem has been, she has not been able to see a physician due to not having insurance.

    So when I read this topic, again, all of her symptoms fit Hypothyroidism rather than mental illness.

    I hope and pray she gets to a decent dr. who will listen, get her tested and put her on a natural treatment. Often times, what I’m allergic to or have problems with, she does too.

  6. I’m so glad to read this!!! For a long time I’ve worried that many people in prison & psychiatric wards are truly suffering from Thyroid issues … I was missed diagnosed also… My dr wanted to put me in a mental health facility .. Every Antidepressant I tried made me worse & finally I got in to see an endocrinologist .. She LISTENED TO ME.. Did a different battery of test & there it was FLAMING!!! My thyroxidace levels were way off.. The depression was awful… I thought I was loosing my mind.. After 12yrs of doing good..taking Synthroid . I’m having a lot of the same symptoms,, I have Hoshimotos .. Worst Depression than before.. So I’m searching for answers!!! Only those who have been there… Can understand how scary this can be!!!! I pray for all who are suffering & hope they,as well as I ,get some answers.. Just keep listening to your body .. Search for yourself ..research .,, & pray for God to lead you!! Thank you for this opportunity to share something I’ve been concerned about for a long time!!!

  7. I was diagnosed with hashimotos almost a year ago. Lost weight and can’t put it back on. On armour thyroid now and it’s not helping. Get very moody and cranky for no reason. Very tired and fatigued but wake up too early and can’t go back to sleep. This sucks and I’m getting tired of it all.

    • You need to see a functional medicine doctor to fix your underlying issue (probably autoimmunity disorder). But for now, to help with the sleeping; take magnesium with calcium before bed. Look up “Biotics Research Ca/Mg-Zyme” (Amazon) it has 300 mg of Calcium Citrate and 60 mg of Magnesium Citrate and two enzymes. It says take 6 tablets. Take them right before bedtime. The reason you’re waking up easily/early is because you’re not getting deep sleep but rather a type of hibernation sleep.

    • Try using armour thyroid and levo. Itake them 12 hours apart. I use sleep medicine but was waking like you every early morning before that.

  8. My husband was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease 10 years ago after suffering a thyroid storm. Although he is being treated with high doses of synthroid the doses seem to keep going higher as the years go by. Now he is on 225 mcg. Recently he lost his injury case that had gone to trial after 7 years. His anticipation of winning his lawsuit and the stresses of finally losing it have completely changed his personality.
    He didn’t sleep or eat for nearly a week and a half and his entire personality is hateful and cruel. He is blaming everything on me and says he doesn’t even know if he wants to stay in our marriage.
    Since he professed that he loved me before the trial and now loathes me I am wondering if the stress and subsequent pain that was produced from his daily courtroom stay could make his thyroid go completely out of whack and cause him to seem almost psychotic in his behavior. He does not call me at all during the day and sometimes will not answer his phone. He turned off the house cameras as he didn’t want anyone spying on him.
    This is just nuts….we have our issues but this is from left field. I don’t know what to do?.
    I have tried to hug him or hold his hand and he pushes me away. The only time he will hug me is after he has a few Valium in him. He sleeps most of the day and is drinking wine with his Valium. He is not an alcoholic but is in severe pain from his injuries.
    Once before his personality flipped and they increased his Synthroid however he is almost at maximum dosage at this point.
    He says that I am treacherous and he can’t trust me…his claims are crazy.
    I am scared for him and myself and really concerned…if anyone could shed light on this it would be greatly appreciated.

    Lynn

  9. Does anyone know who Dana’s doctor is – the one who prescribed timed-release T3? I’m in NYC and want to find a doctor who will use this. Thanks

    • Hi William, I currently see Dr. Hugh Melnick in NYC. He’s a reproductive endocrinologist for fertility but he also has a thyroid patient practice. He’s fabulous. http://www.mythyroidmd.com

      However the person who first put me on a combination of Nature-throid and time-release T3 was Dr. Adrienne Clamp in McLean, VA. I traveled 5 hours each way to see her for years and she got me feeling fantastic then the commute just became too much being a busy mom of two young boys so I searched for someone closer and was lucky to find Dr. Melnick.

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