June is celebrated as National PTSD Awareness Month. The American Psychological Association determines PTSD as an anxiety disorder that develops in certain people following severely stressful events such as combat, crime, accidents, or natural disasters. Although trauma is the fundamental cause, it is the overwhelming symptoms that may allow the disease to be diagnosed. What we do know about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that it affects not only those who served in the war but also those involved in abuse cases. The children, spouses, and adults living through such an event may develop PTSD; along with doctors or nurses trying to take care of these traumatized patients every day; or serious illnesses such as thyroid disease or cancer. It could be someone experiencing a car crash – whether they’re the victim or just happen to witness something horrific while driving down the street.
So What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
According to Merriam-Webster post-traumatic stress disorder is defined as:
: a psychological reaction occurring after experiencing a highly stressing event (such as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event —abbreviation PTSD
Examples of PTSD
- Intrusive Memories
- Fight or Flight Reactions
- Self-destructive Behaviors
- Trouble Concentrating
- Trouble Sleeping, Insomnia
- Negative Changes in Thinking or Mood
- Changes in Physical & Emotional Actions & Reactions
How Does PTSD Relate to the Thyroid?
The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis controls our core stress response mechanism.
The HPA axis is the intricate intertwining of our endocrine and neurological systems. An emotional or physical stressor might trigger an HPA axis response that determines how our bodies adapt and respond to that stress. When we are threatened, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, causing a cascade of chemical reactions. This hormonal cascade occurs almost instantly. Internal functions in your body begin to accelerate as if you had pressed down hard on the gas pedal in a car. Suddenly, your heart is pounding quicker, and your breath becomes more pressing. This biological defense reaction, which is delicately balanced, has saved many people’s lives. There is a disruption of these relationships in PTSD. Because the thyroid is so closely linked to the HPA axis, any dysfunction in that axis will affect thyroid function.
Thyroid dysfunction is prevalent in women and is related to an increased risk of chronic disease. Some research has connected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to thyroid malfunction. The (UAMS) researchers discovered a possible relationship between PTSD in combat veterans and abnormalities in thyroid function.
According to the study, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects 6-9% of the general population but 20% of veterans in the U.S. People suffering from PTSD struggle with physical and emotional symptoms after witnessing a potentially life-threatening or disturbing event. PTSD can last for years, triggering situations resurfacing unpleasant memories or symptoms. PTSD was related to a greater risk of hypothyroidism in a dose-dependent pattern in a longitudinal US cohort research that began in 1989 and employed data from 45,992 women from the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II.
Here’s the issue. Some thyroid malfunction symptoms can exacerbate or worsen your PTSD symptoms. For example, hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces far too many hormones. As a result, you feel jittery, agitated, and restless, including a few symptoms.
It’s no fun dealing with the side effects of both an overactive or underactive thyroid and post-traumatic stress disorder at the same time. It is common for a doctor to overlook the thyroid problem instead of focusing on the known culprit – PTSD. Will thyroid treatment cure PTSD? No. Will it assist with the symptoms? Potentially.
Thyroid health can contribute to overall wellness. Everything begins with a natural approach. Although there isn’t enough evidence to say that PTSD causes hypothyroidism, there is enough evidence to put thyroid dysfunction on the radar of PTSD medical providers and patients. Being aware that those with PTSD may be at an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism should lead to a more timely diagnosis, allowing the patient to maintain a healthier quality of life.
At RGS Healthcare, we pride ourselves on keeping our doctors and their patients’ knowledge of the thyroid disease accurate and up-to-date. Patients can benefit from our informative patient guides if they call 407-759-4302 or email us today to set up an appointment with one of our knowledgeable experts.
Disclaimer: None of the information posted is intended as medical, legal, or business advice, or advice about reimbursement for health care services.