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You're convinced you have an anxiety disorder and try everything under the Sun in order to alleviate the symptoms. Vacations, sabbaticals and medications all don't help at all. What if the root of the stress is not from work but from your thyroid gland?

You're stressed, you're overworked and you just can't deal with the hustle and bustle of daily living.  Don't worry, you are not alone. It is believed that at least 30 percent of the population suffers from a general anxiety disorder [1]. This stress can be overbearing and force any patient to try out relaxation techniques for anxiety, psychotherapy or be dependent on medications to cope with the difficulty [2].

Although the majority of patients will often think that the problem lies within the brain, what if I told you that the problem could very well lie within the blood?

 It is possible to have an imbalance in thyroid hormone circulating around your bloodstream which can manifest in the exact same manner as a general anxiety disorder [3]. These steps are necessary to make sure your hormone imbalance is not the cause of your symptoms.   

Number 1: Get a Blood Test Checking Your T3 and T4 (Thyroid) Levels 

Thyroid problems are a common occurrence globally even with supplemental iodine in salt and water around the planet [4]. Hyperthyroidism is limited to just 2 percent of the population but it is possible for patients to suffer from symptoms associated with high thyroid levels even if their blood values are within normal limits [5].  Patients will complain about tachycardia, fatigue, and weight loss in over 50 percent of hyperthyroid cases as well as sweating, palpitations and nervousness to a lesser extent. Physicians do not call the disease hyperthyroid often so make sure you ask about the chances that you may have Grave's disease or toxic nodular thyroid, the two most common manifestations of hyperthyroidism and your blood tests will show a low TSH and high T3 [5]. This spectrum of symptoms closely mirrors the symptoms presented in an type of anxiety disorder [6]. 

In a large study to determine if there was a possible link between thyroid disease and anxiety disorders, researchers targeted patients diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and checked thyroid levels to see if they were elevated. At the conclusion of the study, it was found that there was a statistically significant link between an elevated thyroid level and having a generalized anxiety disorder. [7]  

Number 2:  Meet with an Endocrinologist if Symptoms Persist 

If you take a blood test and it is determined that you do not have overt hyperthyroidism, that does not necessarily mean that your thyroid is not responsible for the manifestations of your anxiety-- there could be another reason why those relaxation techniques have still failed to improve your stress levels. Subclinical hyperthyroidism is a disease very similar to Grave's disease (hyperthyroidism) but will manifest as low TSH and normal T3.  An inexperienced physician may only see the normal level of T3 hormone and conclude that you do not have hyperthyroid-- an incorrect diagnosis. Many conditions naturally suppress the TSH hormone (also known as the Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone) such as the first trimester of pregnancy and even as high as 15 percent of the elderly population suffering from idiopathic low TSH. [8]  

Subclinical hyperthyroidism is also a possible consequence of taking too strong a dose of levothyroxine - a common medication that is used for patients that have low thyroid levels. If patients are not adequately controlled with this medication, they risk a number of long-term consequences like down regulating their own thyroid as well as an acceleration of osteoporosis [9]. Anxiety can be triggered if the body is suffering from pain and as patients lose more and more bone mass, they begin to increase the number of hormones responsible for feeling stressed out and leave the patient with an anxious state of mind.  This condition can additionally manifest as a sense of reduced quality of life, tachycardia, malaise and cardiac changes to heart contraction-- all of which can directly lead to a surge of catecholamines making a patient anxious and restless [10].

If you fear that you could fall into this category, pick up the phone and make an appointment with an endocrinologist as soon as you can. Research shows that there are slight variations between the symptoms associated with a generalized anxiety disorder and subclinical hyperthyroidism and you need the keen eye of an expert to pick out the differences. A study comparing the symptoms of patients suffering from strictly a hyperthyroid to patients suffering from strictly a generalized anxiety disorder found that an index could be created to help differentiate between the two.  A Hyperthyroid to Anxiety Index was created that has both 100 percent sensitivity and specificity; two important indicators to determine how reliable a screening test can be.  [11]

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