Thyroid Disease May Disguise Itself as Menopause or Mental Illness
The thyroid gland in the neck produces hormones that control how the body uses energy and regulates heart rate, breathing, digestion, growth, brain function, and reproductive health. The hormones produced by the thyroid affect almost every system in your body. So when the gland isn’t functioning properly, it can cause confusing and seemingly unrelated symptoms. This broad range of symptoms makes thyroid conditions notoriously difficult to diagnose. The most common thyroid conditions are hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and goiter (enlarged thyroid). An overactive thyroid causes weight loss, mood swings, hyperactivity, and a fast heartbeat. An underactive thyroid causes weight gain, fatigue, slow or delayed growth in children, and sexual dysfunction. Goiters are common and usually not dangerous. However, if a goiter grows very large, becomes infected, or disrupts hormone production, it can cause pain and difficulty swallowing or breathing.
In women, thyroid conditions may be mistaken for menopause. Both cause unexplained weight changes, sudden changes in body temperature (hot flashes), irregular heartbeat, and sleep issues. Because the thyroid is involved in healthy brain function, it can also cause symptoms that mirror mental illnesses. For example, people with hyperthyroidism may experience anxiety-like symptoms, mood changes, tremors, and difficulty sleeping. People with hypothyroidism sometimes experience confusion, difficulty focusing, and memory loss. Thyroid conditions have been misdiagnosed as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and dementia.