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.


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.

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 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…


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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.


  1. Just FYI for anyone reading this- I had a mental breakdown is what I call it. I started getting panic attacks, extreme anxiety, rushing thoughts, depression and SO MANY OTHER THINGS! At first, my thyroid was normal- I was diagnosed with Obsessive thinking, panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Years later, found out I had a lot thyroid, got on meds, made my depression, anxiety and thoughts much better! Then, endo took me off the meds and guess what came back- anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Now I’m actually on an anti anxiety medicine called Celexa, but I’m going to try it out before getting back on thyroid meds because I don’t want to go through this again when my meds are adjusted so I need to make sure it works. Hugs and good luck to you all!

  2. I was diagnosed with bipolor after my second child. Over a two year period I was put in a stress center at least three times. I was put on what I called cocktails because it was always two or more medication always changing. I was either tired all the time and couldn’t think of couldn’t sleep and had the shakes from them. I remember very little of my life for the first three or four years of giving birth. First they thought it was postpartum depression, then the diagnosis of bipolor. Back then they didn’t text for thyroid issues. The last trip to a stress center a doctor checked my thyroid and found it was under active. Took me off all the medication for bipolor and put me on sinthroid. That was 27 yrs ago. I have had a couple of times in my life that I have had to take something for depression. By nothing like back then. That misdiagnosis caused a lot of issues for me. When they were unsure what was going on with me I got involved in drugs trying to self medicate because nothing anyone done made me feel any better. I didn’t seem to bond with my child and I feel so guilty for that. We both missed out on alt because of my misdiagnosis. I did a lot of things that I am not real proud of and that’s just what I remember. There are big gaps in my memory I assume was because of all the different medication. I actually felt like a guinea pig. But I was only 19 at the beginning of it all and just did what the doctors told me without question. Now they get 20 questions about everything. I’m now 52 and realize we have came a long way with thyroid testing yet I am surprised physician’s are still putting this kind of thing happen. The effect on the quality of life is devistating to a person and thier lack of action should be considered malpractice. There is no amount of money that can replace what I lost but maybe it would wake these doctors up and encourage them to use that high priced education to look more closely to what is going on.

  3. Peer fatemah says

    I was found with two arteries blocked in 1998.It was at a public hospital.My symptoms were I could not walked properly.I had high cholesterol,albumin n more lot problems.So my husband decided to take me to a private dr.I didn’t tell him about my going to the hospital.Telling him only about my other problem.After making an echo graphs n an ecg,I was diagnosed with a hypothyroid gland.Thats the cause of my heart problem.So I told him about the hospital results.He told me that if he looked only at the ecg ,I am a heart patient So what I want to say,don’t stop with only some analyses.Carry on with others n u will find a way out.I am on medication.Its lifetime.N I am ok.U have to do ur test regularly.Good luck to all.

  4. After years of being undertreated for hypothyroidism I finally got a t3 cytomel added to my synthroid and the tiniest dose made a difference. I was near catatonic now I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted armour t3 but my dr said since I have absorption issues she wanted to go with cytomel. What are your thoughts

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