A link between thyroid inflammation and anxiety disorder was proven by a study presented at the virtual congress of the European Society of Endocrinology. This discovery opens the way for a new therapeutic approach.
Up to 15% of the adult population between the ages of 18 and 65, especially women and young adults, are affected by anxiety disorders, which can have serious consequences for the quality of life. Characterized by nervousness, which is felt almost permanently, generalized anxiety disorder is usually accompanied by insomnia, muscle tension, and irritability, which can impair the ability to work and socialize.
Although previous studies on generalized anxiety disorder have focused mainly on its association with the nervous system, few have investigated the role of the endocrine system in triggering this mental disorder.
This has now been done with a study by Dr. Juliya Onofriichuk of the Kyiv City Clinical Hospital (Ukraine). In a session of the virtual congress of the European Society of Endocrinology, she highlighted the role that the thyroid gland can play in the development of anxiety disorders. The results suggest that thyroiditis should be considered as an underlying factor in psychiatric disorders, including anxiety.
Less Thyroid inflammation, less anxiety
To reach this conclusion, the researcher recruited 29 men and 27 women in their thirties who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. she performed ultrasound scans of their thyroid glands to assess thyroid function. Thyroid hormone levels were also measured. It was found that the thyroid glands of anxious patients showed all signs of inflammation. However, thyroid function did not appear to be affected, as thyroid hormone levels were all within the normal range, although slightly elevated. Participants were also positive for thyroid antibodies.
A 14-day treatment with ibuprofen and thyroxine reduced thyroid inflammation and normalized thyroid hormone levels. This treatment also reduced their anxiety.
“These results suggest that the endocrine system can play an important role in anxiety,” said Dr. Onofriichuk. “Doctors should also consider the thyroid and the rest of the endocrine system, as well as the nervous system when examining patients with anxiety,” she said.
For a better treatment of anxiety disorders
For the author of the study, this new knowledge could certainly help ensure that patients with anxiety disorders receive more effective treatments that improve both thyroid function and mental health.
However, more research is needed, as sex and adrenal glands hormones have not been included in this study, although they may have an effect on anxiety. This is now the goal of Dr. Onofriichuk, who plans to study cortisol, progesterone, prolactin, estrogen, and testosterone levels in patients with thyroid dysfunction and anxiety.