Thyroid dysfunction may lead to mental health symptoms like anxiety and brain fog. An overactive thyroid is more likely to cause these symptoms, and management typically involves regulating thyroid hormone levels.

The thyroid gland produces hormones involved in important body functions, from your metabolism to cognitive tasks and mood regulation.

When your thyroid produces too much or not enough hormones, these body functions may be affected. This, in turn, could lead to many physical and mental symptoms, including anxiety. Thyroid conditions may also cause physical symptoms that could mimic those of anxiety disorders, like shakiness and increased heart rate.

Yes, thyroid dysfunction can manifest with anxiety in some people, among other mental health symptoms.

A 2020 study in people with autoimmune diseases found that altered thyroid hormone levels increased their likelihood of experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Common thyroid dysfunctions include hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). Common causes of both of these conditions include autoimmune disorders, like Graves’ disease and Hashimoto thyroiditis, respectively.

Anxiety can occur in both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism but may be more common in people with an overactive thyroid.

Excessive production of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) also causes physical symptoms that may be mistaken as anxiety, like rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, and irritability. In turn, experiencing these symptoms without warning could also trigger anxiety.

A 2023 case study illustrated how hyperthyroidism can be misdiagnosed in some people as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), hence the importance of checking your thyroid function when anxiety symptoms are present.

Graves’ disease, the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, has also been associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, and research suggests that it may be a bidirectional relationship. In other words, anxiety may be a result of Graves’ disease and also a possible trigger.

Symptoms of anxiety may vary from person to person. In general, anxiety may cause both physical and mental symptoms, some of which may overlap with hyperthyroidism symptoms, including:

  • persistent nervousness or restlessness
  • increased heart rate or palpitations
  • tremors or shaking
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • irritability
  • changes in mood
  • unintentional weight loss
  • persistent fatigue
  • increased appetite or urges to eat
  • difficulty concentrating

These symptoms may vary in intensity and overlap with other medical conditions, too. Only a healthcare professional can provide you with a diagnosis and recommend next steps.

Besides anxiety, other symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include:

  • heat intolerance
  • increased sweating even at lower temperatures
  • increased bowel movements
  • muscle weakness
  • depression

Hypothyroidism may also lead to other symptoms, including:

  • unintended weight gain or difficulty losing weight
  • cold intolerance
  • dry skin
  • hair thinning
  • constipation
  • decreased sweating
  • fatigue
  • muscle stiffness and aches
  • puffy face
  • depression

Managing thyroid-related anxiety primarily involves addressing the underlying thyroid condition.

Professional help for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

A primary physician or endocrinologist can assess your thyroid function through blood tests and physical examinations.

For hypothyroidism, treatment typically involves hormone replacement therapy with the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine (Synthroid), which you may need to take for life. A healthcare professional will want to regularly monitor your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels to ensure you’re getting the correct dose.

Treatment options for hyperthyroidism may include:

  • antithyroid medications such as methimazole (Tapazole)
  • radioactive iodine therapy
  • thyroid surgery depending on the severity and cause of your condition

Treating the underlying cause of anxiety, if related to your thyroid, may provide long lasting relief. If you continue experiencing symptoms of anxiety, consider talking with a mental health professional.

Coping strategies for anxiety

Along with managing the cause of the anxiety, a few coping strategies can help with anxiety symptoms. These may include:

  • Relaxation techniques: Deep breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Regular physical activity can boost mood and reduce anxiety while a balanced diet rich in nutrients supports your overall health.
  • Mindfulness practices: Incorporating mindful breathing and eating and grounding exercises can increase your awareness of the present moment and reduce anxiety.
  • Support groups: Joining support groups provides community and shared experiences, which may help you manage your anxiety.

Professional help for anxiety

If your anxiety symptoms interfere with your daily life, consider talking with a mental healthcare professional. They may recommend:

  • Talk therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for managing anxiety. CBT helps you identify and challenge negative thought patterns, teaching you coping skills to manage anxiety symptoms.
  • Medication: In some cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help you manage severe and persistent symptoms.

Here are some frequently asked questions about thyroid and anxiety.

How do you tell if you have thyroid dysfunction?

Only a healthcare professional can determine if you have thyroid dysfunction. They’ll assess your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and likely order thyroid tests like TSH, T3, and T4. If an autoimmune thyroid condition is suspected, they may also order antibody tests.

What are the psychological symptoms of thyroid problems?

Thyroid dysfunctions may cause mental health symptoms in some people, including anxiety, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, depression, and cognitive difficulties like trouble concentrating.

What does thyroid-related anxiety feel like?

Every body is unique, and symptoms of thyroid-related anxiety may manifest in different ways. Possible symptoms may include persistent nervousness or restlessness, difficulty sleeping, shaking without apparent reason, and irritability. These may be accompanied by other thyroid symptoms like aches, unintentional changes in weight and appetite, and heart palpitations.

Anxiety is a possible symptom of thyroid disease, especially hyperthyroidism. Anxiety can also make thyroid dysfunction worse or trigger it.

The treatment for thyroid-related anxiety typically involves treating the underlying thyroid disorder with medications or surgery. Addressing anxiety symptoms separately can also help.