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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Anxiety and Stress Disorders
Thyroid Problems and Anxiety/Nausea
Can there be a relationship between the thyroid and feelings of anxiety with nausea?
Yes, there can be a relationship between the thyroid and feelings of anxiety that include nausea. Feeling nauseated is quite common when one feels anxious. The nausea can happen because activity in the digestive system decreases during anxiety. Instead of focusing on digestion, the body focuses automatically on preparing for defense of some kind--physical or emotional defense of the self. Also, anxiety can sometimes cause a person to feel a bit lightheaded, and the lightheadedness might lead to feeling mildly nauseated. Either way, it`s normal to feel mild nausea when anxious. However, anxiety by itself will not cause vomiting. (This would require having eaten something bad before getting anxious, or having the flu while anxious, for example.) In addition, for some people nausea might lead to anxiety. A person might think that if she or he is feeling ill, something serious could be wrong, and this may feel frightening. Or, she or he might worry about getting sick in front of other people, which might feel embarrassing. Going to a family doctor could help relieve the anxiety that something serious may be wrong, if the person is anxious about this. So, the relationship between anxiety and nausea can work in both directions; either one could lead to the other. Overactivity of the thyroid (that is, `hyperthyroidism`) can lead to feelings of anxiety. Then, the anxiety could lead to feeling nauseated. Whether or not the functioning of the thyroid can lead directly to feeling nauseated is beyond the scope of my professional expertise. If you think you might have a thyroid problem, please visit your family physician. If you know that you have an overactive thyroid, then yes, it could be creating some anxiety that includes feeling nauseated. But it would still be a good idea to talk with your doctor to find out if the thyroid might be causing nausea directly before deciding that anxiety is the cause of the nausea.
Beth McCreary, PhD, LLC
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Ohio State University