If you have been struggling with mild depression you need to see your doctor because it is possible that the condition could be related to your physical health, particularly your thyroid. The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck just over the collarbone and is responsible for producing hormones which manage protein production and oxygen use by your body’s cells. Essentially, the thyroid controls the body’s metabolism. The gland is also active in distributing calcium throughout the body.
Hyperthyroidism describes overactive hormone production and can lead to the sufferer feeling restless and anxious. Hypothyroidism is the term for underactive hormone production and the condition can lead to lethargy and feelings of depression. People with hypothyroidism experience a slow down in metabolism, often feel tired and have trouble focusing. Other symptoms that the thyroid is underactive include:
- Low blood pressure
- Low heart rate
- Low body temperature
- Often feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Tingling in extremities
- Trouble breathing
- Slowed reflexes
- Swelling in the facial area.
A person with an underactive thyroid may experience only a couple of the symptoms, but combined with the presence of depression, it is worthwhile to have the doctor run routine thyroid tests/screenings. The doctors will likely check reflexes, blood pressure and pulse all of which tend to slow down with hypothyroidism. The low heart rate and blood pressure are the cause of the low body temperature and the frequent occurrences of feeling cold.
The physician should also order tests to check for levels of the thyroid stimulating hormone (produced by the pituitary gland) along with a couple of the significant thyroid-related hormones and antibodies. It may be that these initial screenings do not yield a positive result, even though the person has an underactive thyroid.
A second round of more thorough tests is suggested in order to fully determine thyroid health. In addition to these tests, people can keep a record at home of their daily body temperature since this will be a helpful indicator as to thyroid function. Beyond that, there are allergy and sensitivity tests, urine tests and even infection histories which could point to hypothyroidism.
Physicians do not agree among themselves yet as to what determines normal in terms of hormone levels, so don’t be afraid to be dogged about exhausting every test in checking thyroid function.
If the doctor finds that the thyroid is not working as it should, synthetic replacement medications can restore healthy activity and could significantly reduce or even eliminate depression symptoms. The point is that a person with mild depression need not turn to antidepressants as a first response.
On the other hand, by treating hypothyroidism, antidepressants sometimes become even more effective in treating the symptoms of depression. In either case, proper medical attention given to thyroid health is a sensible step for managing both physical and behavioral health.