“Raging, Crying, Screaming, and Angry all the time. About a year after my thyroidectomy, my husband and I started fighting a lot. We had always gotten along before, always loved one another, were kind and thoughtful to one another, but something had changed. I was always angry, and I was always screaming. One day during one of my outrages, my husband came up to me and put his hands on my shoulders and desperately asked, "What's wrong? Why are you so angry all the time?" Not really knowing what to say, I lashed out at him yet again, and this time he walked out the door. I just stood there, in shock, not feeling, not caring, just standing there. I thought then that we were finished.
My husband is the kindest, sweetest, most sensible man, and to know I pushed him that far was devastating. My sixteen-year-old came downstairs and asked me, “Mom, where’s Dad?” I replied, “I don’t know, he walked out.” My son wanted to go find him and bring him home, but I said no, he needed his space. I suddenly began to imagine what my life would be like if he really left. I knew I needed help, what was wrong with me?”
In Rebecca Irelands book, Life After Thyroidectomy, she describes her experience with the emotional side effects of thyroidectomy and how it nearly ruined her marriage. There are countless people who have gone down the emotional drain with many relationships not surviving it, thanks to the thyroid surgery called thyroidectomy. Though effective most times for treating thyroid disease and thyroid cancers, the psychological and emotional side effects of thyroidectomy have wreaked havoc in many lives. Apart from causing severe mood swings, and anxiety, the operation can also lead to depression and symptoms that mimic depression.
What is thyroidectomy?
Thyroidectomy is an operation used to surgically remove all or part of the thyroid gland due to cancer, goiters (non-cancerous enlargement of the thyroid), and in the case of hyperthyroidism. It is relatively a safe operation but just like other surgeries, but there can be complications like bleeding, infection, airway obstruction, hoarse or weak voice, and it can result in damage to the parathyroids which leads to even more side effects like low calcium which can result in cardiac arrhythmias. But, what doctors don’t tell you about are the emotional side effects that can occur long after surgery these side effects can damage the relationships with loved ones and coworkers.
Emotional and psychological effects of thyroidectomy
The thyroid has many important functions which stretch to cognition and mood. When the thyroid gland is removed (either partially or completely), you become hypothyroid (a condition characterized by little thyroid hormone) which may bring about some emotional and psychological effects. The major effect of thyroidectomy are:
· Depression: The thyroid gland is responsible for the production and regulation of TSH. These hormones when they’re out of kilter can affect our energy level, mood, fatigue, weight and brain function all of which can mimic symptoms of depression. Depression as a result of thyroidectomy is also characterized by loss of appetite, tearfulness, disturbed sleep and difficulty in enjoying things.
· Anxiety: Anxiety after a thyroid surgery can come about as a direct consequence of the operation, the disease that caused it (like cancer) or as a result of worries by the patient about managing and coping with things that are expected of them daily. As a consequence of thyroidectomy, anxiety may even come about due to the low production of the thyroid hormone or even suppressive doses of thyroid hormone to prevent cancer recurrence.
· Mood swing: Even before a thyroidectomy, an underactive or hyperactive thyroid can lead to mood swings. This shouldn’t be surprising because the thyroid plays an active role in brain chemistry. When the thyroid has been partly or fully removed, a patient may experience moodiness, anger surge, panic, etc. because of lack or low TSH.
· Sleeping difficulty: Low thyroid hormone is also responsible for sleeping disorders and restlessness. Besides causing anxiety, depression and, fatigue, having trouble sleeping can also come about as a result of surgery on the thyroid gland.
· Irritability: When the thyroid isn’t working correctly, it can have a lot of effects on the brain which directly affects the emotional and psychological state of a patient and their loved ones. One such effect is irritability which leaves a patient irritated, agitated, frustrated, upset and snappy most times.
· No Mouth Filter – Many patients also report since they are quick to temper, they have also lost their proverbial “mouth filter”, this results in patients expressing themselves verbally, and fearlessly to an extent that they have no real control and later regret the angry exchange.
The root causes
In most cases, doctors will prescribe medications to treat the negative symptoms, while this may help temporarily it does not treat the root cause which often times is nutrient deficiency. Patients with hypothyroidism often experience low stomach acid which prevents the body from breaking down proteins and absorbing the nutrients from their food. This leads to all kinds of physical symptoms, like fatigue, brain fog, depression, and frequent illnesses like colds, and infections and that take longer to heal.
After thyroidectomy, a patient will take thyroid replacement medication (usually levothyroxine) for the rest of his or her life in order to replace the hormones they thyroid produced so their body can continue to function properly. But, often times this is not enough. Because patients are not getting enough nutrients from foods, their bodies are literally starving, and this can also mimic thyroid symptoms. This is why patients often say:
“My TSH is Normal, but I Don’t Feel Normal”
So, while the patient thinks they are having continued thyroid symptoms, they are actually experiencing symptoms brought on by another side effect of the surgery. It’s often why Doctors sometimes don’t understand especially when a patient’s blood work is normal. Doctors treat patients structurally not nutritionally.
Taking a good supplement can help replenish these nutrients and minimize or even alleviate the negative side effects and symptoms of thyroidectomy and hypothyroidism. But, not just any supplement, you want a supplement with higher bioavailability, one that was made to help your body absorb nutrients despite potentially low stomach acid. ThyVita is made to help your body absorb more nutrients, so you actually feel the difference. Most patients report their symptoms have subsided and they no longer feel the emotional roller coaster they were once on.
Many times, patients can feel unheard especially if their blood work says everything is normal and yet they still feel awful. You shouldn't feel awkward or embarrassed about relating your problem with a doctor or your family, press on and ask for nutrient tests to see where you’re deficient and ask your doctor about taking a supplement in addition to any other therapies they may require. For one, it will arm your doctor with enough information to help you, but most importantly you will start feeling better again. Also, I highly recommend, Rebecca Irelands book, Life After Thyroidectomy. Since these symptoms may also have an impact on your relationship with family and friends, it is important to give them the opportunity to fully comprehend what the problem is and Rebecca’s book has a chapter written just for family and friends. You can also join a social support group on Facebook, like “life after thyroidectomy”, not only for support but insight from other patients Who may be experiencing the same side effects and symptoms. You can find them at FB.com/mylat
1Rebecca Ireland, Author, Life After Thyroidectomy