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Am I Going Crazy Or Is It Just My Thyroid?

The little gland can cause big problems.

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An animated graphic showing three women with active thyroid glands.
Kelly Abeln
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Located at the base of your neck near your collarbone, your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland responsible for the production of thyroid hormones. And as anyone more than casually familiar with the concept of menopause can tell you, when hormone production goes haywire, it can cause an unpleasant cascade of symptoms throughout your body.

Gaining or losing weight, joint pain, muscle aches, dry hair or skin, intolerance to cold — all of these could be signs of thyroid disorder, a condition that’s much more prevalent in women than in men, and that becomes more common as you age. (It’s estimated that 1 in 5 women develop hypothyroidism — when your body doesn’t make enough of the hormone — by the time they hit 60.)

But thyroid problems don’t just cause physical symptoms; they can make you feel mental, too. Here are four signs your thyroid might be out of whack.

• Your energy has dwindled to sloth levels. Sure, there are plenty of reasons that you might be running on empty these days: a bad mattress, stress, even another health condition like anemia or chronic fatigue syndrome. But constant exhaustion — the kind that even a full night’s rest can’t cure — is also a top symptom of hypothyroidism.

• You’re stuck feeling depressed or anxious. Thyroid problems can put you at the mercy of your moods. Too little thyroid hormone can trigger spurts of sadness or depression. On the other hand, hyperthyroidism — when your body produces too much — can put your emotions into overdrive, causing a jittery feeling, rapid heart rate and mind-spinning anxiety.

• Your libido has gone MIA. For many women, the moodiness, fatigue, and aches and pains associated with thyroid disorder are more than enough to kill their sex drive. But evidence shows that even without those other symptoms, a lack of libido can also be a sign that your thyroid isn’t working right.

• Your brain has turned to mush. Forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, brain fog — people with thyroid disorder sometimes feel as though they’re experiencing a rash of early-onset senior moments. Hyperthyroidism has a pronounced effect on your attention, making it tough for you to focus and causing ADHD-like symptoms; in fact, some studies show that people with ADHD may be more likely to have an overproduction of thyroid hormone. Meanwhile, hypothyroidism can lead to memory lapses and mental fuzziness.

Ready for some good news? Once properly diagnosed, thyroid disorders are treatable with medication or (in some cases) surgery. For most patients, symptoms lift dramatically once the hormone problem is addressed. So talk to your doctor if you suspect your thyroid could be out of order.