Depression, thyroid dysfunction, and Stress – A triple threat

Apr 5, 2018 | | Say something

Depression, thyroid dysfunction, and Stress – A triple threat ;


Mental health and endocrine health are closely related. Endocrine dysfunction often cause mental and physical symptoms. In addition, mental health conditions often cause endocrine dysfunction. This occurs through a (sometimes vicious) biopsicosocial cycle where alterations in an area leading to a cascade of effects on the other. For some, this connection is the key to finding relief where other treatments have failed. Considering these connections can be important not only for effective treatment, but to promote resilience in mental and physical health.


Let’s use depression as an example to explore this connection. People often use the word generically depression in the sense of sadness, poor concentration, loss of motivation, or general feeling of “low”. Clinically, the DSM-5 defines depressive disorders, characterized by persistent feeling “sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic and cognitive changes that significantly affect the individual’s ability to function.” ¹ The term refers to changes somatic symptoms that individuals who suffer from depression often experience. These can be a general feeling of physical sluggishness, aches and pains, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances and more. Cognitive changes relate to mental confusion or “fog” and fatigue that people describe. In general, the effects of both short clinical depression physical and mental health.


Now let’s take a look at a endocrine disorder – hypothyroidism. This is a condition in which either the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormone or the body does not respond to the hormone. When healthy, the thyroid helps regulate most of our metabolism. When it is not healthy we will see the signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism, which include cold intolerance, constipation, dry skin and hair, slow heartbeat, weight gain, fatigue and depression. Not everyone who has hypothyroidism will experience all these symptoms. Some may have only slow, depressed mood and fatigue.

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Now for the kicker – depression can be caused by hypothyroidism and depression can trigger or worsen hypothyroidism. The use of thyroid hormone replacement to treat depression that does not respond to typical antidepressants is well documented in the literature. In fact, a review² of several of these studies found that hypothyroidism is involved significantly in treatment-resistant depression or recurrent. These studies showed that administration of thyroid hormone actually improved depression. Unfortunately, some of the treatments used for more severe depression actually interfere with thyroid function. Lithium is the best known of these treatments. Lithium reduces the amount of available iodine thyroid. Iodine is crucial for the production of thyroid hormone, at least iodine in the thyroid gland hormone means less is available for the body and signs of hypothyroidism kick.

Thus we see an example of bio (thyroid and hormone ) and psychosis (depressive symptoms) that interact, but how the social development occurs at stake?


Stress affects our deep physical and mental health. I am sure that as you read this you can remember a time in your life when you were under a lot of stress. Probably felt more irritable, had a hard time focusing, it may have been less interested in hanging out with friends or do things you normally like to do, or even had changes in their sleep. During these times you probably ate different, exercised less, and may even have gained some weight. When you feel stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol. This hormone comes from the adrenal glands. When released in large quantities you can block the release of thyroid hormones. Without going too much into the weeds physiology and pathology, it is important to know that stress controlled has no significant impact on both the endocrine system and mental health.

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Now imagine that all these systems were out of control. The thyroid is not working well so you feel fatigued and depressed. When depressed impacts their work and social life, so it feels more stress. Your body responds by increasing the release of cortisol, which in turn reduces the production of thyroid further, making you feel more tired and depressed. This is something vicious cycle aspect. However, this can be reversed. Our bodies are incredibly resilient, the highly effective treatment in one area affect other areas as well. Reducing stress reduces cortisol release, which in turn allows better thyroid hormone production. Reducing stress through mindfulness practices has also been shown to improve outcomes in depression.³

optimal interventions include treatment of the three areas – biological, psychological and social – with emphasis on management stress. There are many safe and effective natural treatments that can help achieve this , the details of which will be addressed in future articles.

Sometimes, mental health conditions are not only mental health. Taking the whole man and of the whole body into consideration is vital to health. As I mentioned earlier, I have found that resilience is the true hallmark of mental and physical health. When we are resilient, we can recover from the sad or stressful days. We recover energy and focus. Aches and pains do not last more than a few days. By understanding the nuances of how they interact mind and body can use natural therapies to enhance our resilience and take control of what we feel.

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Bahr_headshot Dr. Jennifer Bahr, ND is a naturopathic physician licensed to practice in San Diego, CA. She focuses on the treatment of health conditions and mental endocrine expert in mood disorder and mental health and behavior of the child / adolescent. He is also an adjunct professor at Bastyr University California and is vice president and legislative chairman of the Association of Naturopathic Physicians of California. Dr. Bahr received his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine where his clinical studies of homeopathy, nutrition, mental health, pediatrics and focused.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC :. Author
  2. Howland, R. H., (1993). Thyroid dysfunction in refractory depression: implications for the pathophysiology and treatment. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 1993 Feb; 54 (2): 47-54 ..
  3. Teasdale, John D;. Segal, Zindel V.; Williams, J. Mark G.; Ridgeway, Valerie A.; Soulsby, Judith M.; Lau, Mark A. (2000). Preventing relapse / recurrence in major depression with cognitive therapy based on consciousness. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , Vol 68 (4), August 2000, 615-623.

This article was originally published on thenatpath, Read the original article here


Posted in: adrenal, Anxiety, Bahr, Depression, endocrine disorders, mental health, Thyroid

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