Study Finds Thyroid Inflammation Tied to Anxiety Disorders

September 19, 2020

A study from e-ECE 2020 suggests thyroid inflammation could put patients at greater risk for developing an anxiety disorder.

New research suggests patients with thyroid inflammation could be at a greater risk of developing anxiety disorders.

The study, which was presented at the European Society of Endocrinology 2020 annual meeting, suggests thyroid function could play a pivotal role in the development of anxiety disorders and call for further research into whether thyroid inflammation should be considered an underlying factor for psychiatric disorders.

"These findings indicate that the endocrine system may play an important role in anxiety. Doctors should also consider the thyroid gland and the rest of the endocrine system, as well as the nervous system, when examining patients with anxiety," said lead investigator Juliya Onofriichuk, of Kyiv City Clinical Hospital, in a statement.

With nations across the world placing a greater emphasis on treatment and identification of anxiety disorders in recent years, Onofriichuk and a team of colleagues from Kyiv City Clinical Hospital sought to contribute to physicians’ understanding of the role of the endocrine system in anxiety disorders. WItht this in mind, investigators designed their study as an examination of 76 patients with anxiety disorders, including 29 men and 47 women.

All patients included in the study initially consulted a neurologist or psychotherapist with panic attacks. These patients underwent ultrasounds of their thyroid glands that assessed thyroid function and levels of thyroid hormones were also measured. Of note, thyroid hormone levels of interest included thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free triiodothyronine (T3), and free thyroxine (T4).

Upon analysis, investigators found total thyroid gland in 55% of patients was within normal range and 28% exceeded the norm by no more than 20%. In 71 patients, investigators observed an increase in the intensity of blood flow in the gland.

Patients with increased blood flow to their thyroid gland but normal TSH were prescribed a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) twice a day for 14 days and and those with increased blood flow in the gland and increased TSH (42%) received an NSAID and thyroxine for 8 weeks. These patients underwent an additional ultrasound of their thyroid gland. Investigators noted patients treated for 14 days saw reductions in thyroid inflammation, normalized thyroid hormone levels, and anxiety scores.

“All patients with anxiety disorders need to check the function of the thyroid gland, since its disorders can lead to psycho-emotional disorders,” wrote investigators in their conclusion.

The aforementioned statement noted Onofriichuk has plans to conduct further research examining levels of thyroid, sex, and adrenal hormones, such as cortisol, progesterone, prolactin, estrogen, and testosterone, in patients with dysfunctional thyroid glands and anxiety disorders.

This study, “Anxiety Disorders in Patients with Autoimmune Thyroiditis,” was presented at e-ECE 2020.