Depression - by Sally Brampton

First of all I want to say a huge thankyou to everyone that contributes to this forum.  With your help and advice, I have managed to get myself on T4/T3 combo and it has changed my life and quite possibly also saved it.  For many years I suffered from what I was told was "the blues" to such an extent that I just didn't want to be here anymore.  I realise now that I was probably clinically depressed as a result of being hypo (TSH at 26 when first diagnosed).  T3 has made all the difference and I know that without all the advice and support I found here I simply wouldn't have been able to argue my case for receiving T3.  So thank you again.

The point of my post is that I read with sadness that the brilliant editor and writer Sally Brampton has taken her own life after suffering from depression for many years.  I read an article that she wrote about her illness in The Telegraph some time ago (you can read it here:

I read it with sadness until I got to the part where she said that she couldn't swallow...had a lump in her throat....

  " The physical symptoms of severe depression are as wide-ranging as they are confounding. There's a terrible leaden weariness....My particular physical symptom was a constriction of the throat. It felt as if I had some huge growth behind my tonsils, which, at times, became so severe I could not swallow and I feared I could no longer breathe.  It has a name, globus hystericus, given it, unsurprisingly, by Freud."  

Sound familiar?  t was only when she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital that she was diagnosed with an under-active thyroid.   

Im not saying that depression is solely caused by thyroid issues.  But I wonder how many people are being treated for depression when a simple blood test and a sympathetic, clued-up GP might lead to a different diagnosis and radically different outcome for those whose depression might be thyroid-related?  

RIP Sally Brampton

21 Replies

I think most depression is hormone driven.  

Hormones are not patentable, so the pharmaceuticals have focused on the brain chemistry to treat this illness.

Hence we have had a huge industry which has grown massively since the 1970's.

All self serving stuff really.

Totally agree with you. So many hormones  can cause depression if they are too low or too high. And doctors are woefully ignorant about all things hormone.


I loved Sally Brampton's writings. She used to contribute to The Sunday Times, years ago. I remember her talking of this feeling, which apparently has a name in Chinese medicine - if I remember correctly, it roughly translates as 'Cherry stone throat' it chimed because I had just lost my dear Ma and I though my, that's what I have, then...

RIP Sally you will be missed and you're not dead because a legion will remember you for many years to come, through your lovely and insightful writing.

I've been thinking about this too. Sally said "During my first stay in a psychiatric unit, where my condition was diagnosed, I learnt that I have an under-active thyroid. The thyroid, once known as the gland of the emotions, requires careful handling. A little too much thyroxin, a little too little - both have a huge impact on the balance of the mind. It is thought that up to 30 per cent of women in psychiatric units (low function is more common in females) suffer from an under-active thyroid". 

I can't help but wonder whether her low thyroid was being properly treated or not.......... Depression is an under-rated symptom of low thyroid, but given that most doctors just chuck a bit of thyroxine at you, then tell you that your thyroid is fine, it's highly possible that under-treated hypothyroidism is causing ongoing and serious depression.

RIP, Sally. I will miss your column in Psychologies magazine.

So sad! (and I speak as someone with a family member troubled with bouts of severe dpression and being sectioned)

Incredible though that you can walk into any GP surgery, say you are

depressed and walk out with a prescription.

No blood tests, the doctor goes by what he sees and what you say.

No way of evaluating efficacy of the drugs apart from what he sees and what the patient says. ( see malcolm Kemdricks article below )

One rule for some, one rule for others.

Excellent article here about the dangers of 'evidence based medicine'

and here

good ammo in GP discusions and in cost v benefit calculations with doc or CCG

RIP Sally x


Lets not forget B12 and depression!

It can go hand in hand with low thyroid apparently.

I realised I have neurolgical symptoms after following a post to this site and am getting tested this Friday.

(fizzing feet with hot burning, tingling hands, tinnitus)

Quite a few vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as loads of illnesses are linked to depression.

I personally don't understand why it's cheaper to dose people up on antidepressants for years than take  a full blood count and nutrient test first. Yes the blood test costs more initially but after a year it's cheaper.

Oh how I agree with you bluebug ...been there with depression a few times myself and terrible anxiety issues, unable to cope with stress. My B12 was really low and Vit D.  Probably were during all those times. I am so Blessed with this forum and all the wonderful people who give up their  time to offer advice  and have helped me. A Massive THANK YOU to everyone xxx

I Don't think it's a question of cost. Not in the way you mean, anyway. It's just ignorance on the part of doctors. They learn nothing about nutrition in med school, and very, very little about hormones. They Don't know which tests to do nor how to interpret the results. And that's just the way Big Pharma wants it, because antidepressants are big profit makers!  

How very sad this is to read & to hear of her death by suicide. I shed tears reading it , may she rest in peace.  

 I've suffered with major depressive disorder for 24 years & understood her feelings completely.

Depressive illness can be a very lonely & self distructive illness & when you plunge to your very lowest depths there seems not even a distant chink of  light at the end of the tunnel. I've always likened it to being stuck down a very deep dark cold empty water well in the middle of nowhere & there's no one around to help you. You feel completely shut off from reality & it's exhausting, frightening & bewildering & you feel alien to everyone & everything. 

Depression is related to many other chronic illnesses & not exclusive to thyroid disorders but then there's the chicken & egg scenario. 

Serotonin is made in the brain & the intestines & 80 - 90% is found in the GI tract & also found in the central nervous system & blood platelets. Since it' s now widely believed that most, if not every Autoimmune disease starts in the gut might well explain the decrease in serotonin production.

 From reading lots I've learned that stress, worry & illness can also cause the gut to become overly acidic & leaky which can lead to so many more health problems.

 Its also said that those who suffer from anxiety & depression have a tendency to be unable to cope with stress as others might do, it kind of make us sound weak & feeble but as far I'm concerned If our bodies our being stressed to the max with Auto immune illnesses that may not be treated sufficiently then how the heck are we to muster up enough energy to deal with everday stress? 

I'm sure the GPs wouldn't offer 'mindfulness' sessions  & stress management to someone with the flu or tonsillitis for example.

Well said x

This is so sad. What could have been if she'd got better help for her thyroid disease. I have complicated history of thyroid disease and ongoing bouts of depression. Since I've been treating myself for B12 deficiency however my depression  has GONE. I've never felt better mentally. I am sad for wasted years struggling to raise my family but also feeling so positive and optimistic for a brighter future. 

I echo your thoughts...many wasted years but thankfully no more xxx

Freud's description of a lump in the throat as "globus hystericus" makes me so angry. It seems that she thought the constriction in her neck was a manifestation of her depression for which she blamed herself. So sad.

Me too - they told me that I had this too - I was furious!

This NHS gives lots of possible causes for the globus (lump in the throat) but strangely no mention of thyroid issues:

Freud was such a sexist! I think he was responsible for an awful lot of our problems being taken seriously as women.

How very sad to read about this bright and clever lady, who has fought to stay alive for so many years, finally losing that battle. Anyone who has had depression will understand, those who haven't will find it hard. My thoughts go to her daughter and other family. 

How tragic and what an incredible article. It is written with such a raw and visceral honesty which can only come from the heart.  I read her articles in Psychologies magazines and she always seemed very upbeat. I had no idea that she was struggling with such physical and emotional turmoil in her life.

Thank you for posting this Jenny23 

I too feel very sad reading this article and for anyone suffering from depression. In the past I have suffered but I remember thinking years ago during a short bout, 'Well nothing has changed from yesterday, yet I was feeling fine yesterday and today I feel like a heavy blanket is on top of me emotionally. It must be just a chemical imbalance." Maybe it sounds silly but that really helped me depersonalise the sad feelings. So as long as I was by myself, reading books and having hot baths and being gentle with myself, I always snapped out of it after a few days because I knew that all I needed was rebalancing chemically there was nothing wrong with the core 'me spirit' if that makes sense.

A friend of mine committed suicide and we were all so devastated. Another friend of ours said, 'Killing yourself is a permanent solution to a temporary problem' which really struck me. 

Remember tomorrow is another day and everything can change in 24 hours! so sad. A new girl joined our yoga group yesterday and she works in the UK in psychiatric unit. She is just here in Crete on holiday. She said how horrendous it is to see so many women unravel when they are committed - losing everything - and then they find out it is the thyroid - both over and under. It was then I too felt a lump in my throat ....

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