Revised 2018

People with thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer and thyroid eye disease can often experience emotional and psychological symptoms as well as physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms - overactivity

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Emotional symptoms - underactivity

  • Depression, low mood
  • Tearfulness
  • Difficulty enjoying things
  • Loss of appetite

Either overactivity or underactivity

  • Mood swings
  • Sleeping difficulties

Mental health symptoms (most often with thyroid under-activity)

  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Short-term memory lapses
  • Lack of interest and mental alertness

These symptoms are not specific to thyroid disorders, and can commonly occur in other medical conditions. Your doctor will need to carry out appropriate tests, including thyroid function tests, to confirm the diagnosis.


  • Abnormal thyroid hormone levels
  • Rapid changes in thyroid hormone levels
  • Treatment for side-effects: steroids and beta blockers
  • Stress in other areas of life can aggravate thyroid symptoms
  • Changes in appearance caused by the thyroid disorder
  • Irregular taking of thyroid medication
  • Other illnesses


Fortunately, in the majority of cases, if the thyroid is the cause of the problem the psychological symptoms improve as the thyroid disorder is brought under control by treatment. But this may take some time, even after blood tests have returned to normal.

If psychological symptoms continue

  • Talk to you doctor
  • Ask to see a specialist with experience in dealing with thyroid disorders
  • Confide in a family member or close friend
  • Consider non-drug treatments such as relaxation or short-term psychotherapy
  • Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed

Long term outlook

  • Symptoms may take some time to settle initially
  • Most people recover fully and lead normal lives if a thyroid disorder is the cause

Thyroid problems often run in families and if family members are unwell they should be encouraged to discuss with their own GP whether thyroid testing is warranted.

This Quick Guide is one in a series about thyroid disorders. All Quick Guides are available on the British Thyroid Foundation website.

A leaflet containing more detailed information about Psychological Symptoms is also available.

The British Thyroid Foundation
tel: 01423 810093
The British Thyroid Foundation is a registered charity: England and Wales No 1006391, Scotland SC046037

Membership Information
Quick Guides

Endorsed by:

The British Thyroid Association - medical professionals encouraging the highest standards in patient care and research

The British Association of Endocrine and Thyroid Surgeons - the representative body of British surgeons who have a specialist interest in surgery of the endocrine glands (thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal)

First issued: 2008
Revised: 2011, 2015, 2018
Our literature is reviewed every two years and revised if necessary.

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