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What Thyroid Patients Need to Know About Depression

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Updated: July 16, 2007

by Mary J. Shomon

In any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from a depressive illness, and thyroid patients have a higher incidence of depression and anxiety disorders than the average public. Here are some key points to understand.
  • Most people with a depressive illness do not seek treatment
  • There are three forms of depression: Major depression, dysthymia (dis-thigh-me-uh), and bipolar disorder.
  • Major depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms (see symptom list) that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities.
  • Dysthymia involves long-term, chronic symptoms that do not disable, but keep one from functioning well or from feeling good.
  • Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression).
  • There are many symptoms...just a few include: persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood; feelings of hopelessness, pessimism; restlessness, irritability; racing thoughts. ( A detailed and complete list of symptoms is featured online.)
  • Women experience depression about twice as often as men.
  • There are several types of antidepressant medications used to treat depressive disorders, including serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)-the tricyclics, and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Lithium has for many years been the treatment of choice for bipolar disorder, as it can be effective in smoothing out the mood swings common to this disorder. It can, however, cause permanent hypothyroidism in some patients.
  • Naturally, St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been found to be useful for some cases of dysthymia.
  • Many forms of psychotherapy, including some short-term (10-20 week) therapies, can help depressed individuals.
Read a comprehensive online guide to depression, including the symptoms, treatments, and further resources to help

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