Is it depression or a Thyroid Problem

I am desperately worried about my brother who is 64. I was appaled a couple of months ago to learn that his GP has put him on Sertaline 50mg and tells him he has a depression/mental problem which he has probaby had all his life! She is now sending him to a Therapist.

Over the past few years his face has become red and puffed up and his eyelids are heavy - his skin is dry and flaky, and he bruises very easily, his head feels like it is going to explode, the muscles in his legs have wasted away through being on steroid inhalers for the past 40 years (asthma from being a baby), he has muscle cramps. He gets enthusiastic about something and then suddenly loses interest, he is depressed, nervous and anxious and has lost confidence, he has mood swings and now says he keeps hearing voices in his head telling him he is no good and worthless. He has withdrawn into himself and doesn't want to socialise. His cholesterol is high (9), his liver function is up, he has gout (untreated), high PSA (14) the list goes on.

I have begged him to get tested, but all he says is the GP says it is a deep rooted problem, and he is going to take the sertaline and see a therapist. He attributes all his symptoms to other things such as his inhalers.

I am at my wits end, he doesn't seem to accept that thyroid problems run in the family, and I feel that he should be tested even if only to eliminate a thyroid problem, and in fairness to his sons and small grandson.

I know there is not much anybody can say, but I would be pleased to hear your views and suggestions as to whether it could be Underactive Thyroid.

Many thanks


22 Replies

I am sorry you are worried about your brother and that he prefers to listen to the doctor than you, who instinctively thinks it is a problem with his thyroid gland and I think that might well be right particularly if it is within the family already.

If he can be persuaded that, to stop you worrying about his health, if he would agree to a blood test for his thyroid hormones. He could get one privately if he doesn't want to go through the GP.

If he goes to see a therapist can you go with him. Maybe the therapist can be persuaded, if your brother cannot, to do a blood test for his thyroid gland.

It's all very well for a doctor to say he has a mental health issue all his life and they are very quick to dispense anti-d's even though you cannot have a blood test for it but don't consider hypothyroidism.

This is a link for blood tests which can be done quite easily. You get a small discount if you mention either by name or code. I know Blue Horizon do pin-prick tests and you post them and they will email you

the results. I would get a full thyroid panel.

Thanks Shaws, I will look up the private blood test link, as like you, I feel that a full panel would be best. I did ask him to request thyroid blood tests through the GP, but for some reason he is reluctant to do so.

We live 80 miles apart and I really don't think he would agree to me going to the therapist with him because he refuses to go with him.

Anyway I am not giving up and he may be glad to agree to something to keep me quiet. Again many thanks .


I get the impression that some people see a diagnosis of thyroid disease as somehow... not quite nice. I Don't know why, but I had a friend who was so obviously hypo - massive weight gain, no eyebrow , etc - and she reacted quite violently. She said something along the lines of: 'I couldn't possibly have that, because you've got that!' As if I was somehow inferior to her. Very strange

I think you are right. People just don't understand or know about the thyroid and think it something trivial that won't affect them, and when you try to help I believe they think we are mad!

Or nosey busybodies! Just got shouted at by someone who is so obviously hypo, it just screams at you if you know anything about it. Told to mind my own f******g business, he's got a wonderful doctor who told him his problems are all down to his high cholesterol (hypo) and diabètes (statins)! Yes, wonderful doctor! lol But I Don't take it personally, because hypo affects the brain and makes people irrational. What you gonna do?!?

Yes, that's the problem - we try to help and get shouted at. Hard to cope with, but we just have to try and do our best. Take care. Brenchley

:) xxx

Oh, brenchly! I do so sympathise! My brother is exactly the same. Well, he isn't depressed at the moment, but he has been. And there have been times when I've spent hours on the telephone talking him out of suicide. But he displays all the other symptoms you mention. Plus he's lost all his hair!

Hypo is in our family, too, but he is in denial. And besides, what could I possibly know! I'm not a doctor!!! l did once manage to get him to get tested, about ten years ago... Well, what I did was ordered Dr Broda Barnes book on Amazon and had it sent to him. He's quite interested in all things medical because he has a heart condition (caused by untreated hypo???), so he did read it out of curiosity. Then decided he would prove to me that he wasn't hypo by recording his temps every morning. To his dismay, he found they were low! So, I gave him a list of tests to do and he went to his doctor. But, of course, the doctor only tested TSH and T4, saying the others weren't necessary - even though my brother told him I had Hashi's! And, of course, they came back 'in range', so that was that. Doctor knows best!

Now he just gets that glazed look in his eyes when I mention anything about hypo - and sometimes even gets aggessive about it! (Undiganosed hypo???) So, there we are, and for him, all his problems stem from his past drinking - he is alcoholic (but why???) and his doctors are wonderful - even when he finds out they actually aren't! And I know nothing, end of!

I wish I could give you some helpful advice. I wish I had the answers for myself! We've now got to the point where he feels so ill he keeps saying he's not got much longer and keeps changing his will! It's such a pleasure to have a conversation with him! But, that's men, isn't it! They know it all, etc. Stubborn as mules!

I should think the odds of your brother being hypo are pretty high, by the sound of it. Perhaps you can just wear him down until he gives in and gets tested just to keep you quiet! I know how pathetic that sounds, but what else can you do. Or else, just wait. It's possible that the treatment his stupid doctor is giving him (did she even test his thyroid???) will make him worse - which they possibly could - and then he might listen. Not what I would wish on anyone, but it could work out that way. Or, could you not have a word with his doctor yourself? It might even get found out by accident...

Cold comfort, I know. But, believe me, you have all my deepest sympathy. Take care.

Hugs, Grey

Thanks Grey, so very sorry to hear that you have the same problems with your brother and understand how I feel. As you say they are as stubborn as mules, and like you I get "What do you know, your'e not a doctor". The thing is though, we do know from our own experiences!

I think I may be able to persuade him to do the temperature test every morning before he gets out of bed. I am going to arm myself with info. on private blood tests and then have another go at him - hopefully I will wear him down and he will give in!!!

I don't know why GPs never think of doing thyroid testing before they set off on a depression route. They just don't understand.

Many thanks for listening, understanding and giving me food for thought.

I sincerely hope that you can get through to your brother. I will let you know if by some miracle I get him to see sense.

Take care and all my best wishes.


I shall be keeping my fingers crossed and sending you good vibes, Brenchley. Good luck! xxx

Brenchley, it could be an underactive thyroid causing the depression and psychiatric manifestations but equally they can be experienced when thyroid levels are normal. It's agreat pity your brother's GP didn't test his thyroid function before prescribing antidepressants and referring him for therapy.

Hi Clutter, I agree it is a pity that the GP didn't test thyroid function before prescribing anti-depressants. I really think he does need to get tested just to rule out thyroid problems! I will keep on at him. Many thanks.


Thanks Marz will look at that.


Try to convince him to get thyroid tested to prove you wrong. Nhs gps get extra funding per person they push down the mental health route.

Thanks for that info. Bluedaffodil. I didn't realise that NHS GPs get extra funding for following the Mental Health route! I intend to keep pushing him to get tested.

Best wishes


I have a similar brother story although not as difficult as yours brenchley. Everytime my brother rang me (he lives abroad) he would always sound nasally as though he had a cold, and had various other ailments. I nagged him to get his bloods done as I have thyroid issues as do other members of my family, he got quite angry and wouldn't do it. This went on for a long time, eventually he had his bloods done and lo and behold he had high antibodies and Hashimoto's disease. Thank goodness he found out what was going on as he had a lot of other niggling ailments. Now he is right there with me, swopping ideas on supplements and food, is non-gluten takes a lot of vitamin supplements (the ones he told me would kill me)!! It took a lot of ear bashing to get him to do something but now it has taken him on a path of alternatives, and like me would never trust a doctor. Just keep on at your brother, in the hope that one day he might listen to you.

This is such a familiar situation to me. I've struggled to get my own health issues diagnosed, and my brother, whose health is very poor won't listen to any suggestions from me. He would sooner self-diagnose from the radio or internet than believe I might have something useful to tell him. Then when he does visit his GP, he upsets them by claiming he knows what's wrong with him better than they do. I have lain awake at night worrying about him, he lives too far away for me to just turn up and drag him to the doctor. Although we did do that one Christmas, take him to get a blood test, that is. He'd had the form for over eighteen months! What can you do? MariLiz

Oh, MariLiz what a problem these brothers are! Like you I had a struggle to get myself diagnosed 10 years ago, and I thought my brother would at least listen to me when he knows what trouble I had - but NO. He won't go and ask for a thyroid test because it can't possibly be that and his GP may think he is a hypochondriac! I also live too far away to physically make him go, although I am now thinking of writing to his GP if he won't agree to private blood tests.

Good luck with your brother. Best wishes


Hi Brenchley, many thanks for your reply, it seems this is not an unusual situation. I'd wondered about writing to my brother's GP, but I don't want to completely alienate my brother as he lives on his own. He has gradually become more reclusive since taking early retirement, and because of his health issues, is doing less and less. If only he were just around the corner it would make it a lot easier to help him. Oh well. Best wishes MariLiz

Hi MariLiz

What a dilemma, as you say we don't want to alienate our brothers or perhaps spoil a doctor / patient relationship, but what do we do, we can't just sit back and watch them slowly deteriorate. Talking to my husband this evening, I still really don't know whether to write to the GP or not. I just want, as so do you, my brother to come back to the land of the living. It would make things much easier if he were within easy reach. Still we won't give up on them. Best wishes Brenchley xx

Thank you again for your sympathy and understanding on this very difficult issue. I wish you and your brother well, and hope that mine might eventually listen to me. Best wishes MariLiz

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