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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Sometimes depression results from an underactive thyroid, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive. In some people, hypothyroidism may be mistaken for depression. These individuals may be prescribed an antidepressant, rather than the thyroid medication that they really need.

The July 2011 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter explains how to distinguish hypothyroidism from depression and describes the treatment options for mood problems caused by an underactive thyroid.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped structure in the neck. Although it weighs less than an ounce, the thyroid exerts a powerful influence throughout the body. It does so by secreting hormones that control how fast and efficiently cells convert nutrients into energy (metabolism). By regulating metabolism, the thyroid indirectly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body — including the brain.

An underactive thyroid can cause symptoms similar to depression, such as low mood, fatigue, weight gain, reduced sexual desire, and trouble concentrating. But the problem is more likely to be hypothyroidism when people also experience chills, muscle cramps or stiffness, dry skin and hair, hoarseness, or a slowed heart rate.

Dr. Michael Miller, Editor in Chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, notes that treatment usually involves taking a medication once a day to restore thyroid hormone levels to normal. Once this happens, mood should return to normal as well.

Read the full-length article: "When depression starts in the neck"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter

  • References for "How addiction hijacks the brain"
  • References for "When depression starts in the neck"
  • References for "Expressive writing for mental health"
  • How addiction hijacks the brain
  • When depression starts in the neck
  • Expressive writing for mental health
  • In Brief: Long-term results of deep brain stimulation for depression
  • In Brief: More evidence that exercise aids the brain
  • Commentary: FDA: No link between food colorings and hyperactivity in most children

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.