Thyroid disorders and ADHD have overlapping symptoms. Studies also suggest that there is an association between thyroid abnormalities and ADHD.
There are similarities between the symptoms of a thyroid disorder and the symptoms of ADHD. The two conditions also often co-occur.
While studies have found an association between ADHD and thyroid disorders, there is no substantial evidence supporting a causal link between the two.
This article explores the link between ADHD and thyroid disorders and their overlap. It also discusses ADHD and thyroid disorders and their causes, diagnosis, and treatment.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the
In ADHD, experts think a combination of genetic and environmental factors alters brain development and brain activity, affecting a person’s attention and behavior.
A person with ADHD may be overly active, act impulsively, and have difficulty focusing or concentrating. They may also have problems with planning, judgment, and problem-solving. These symptoms interfere with daily life.
The thyroid gland plays a role in many vital functions in the body, including heart rate, breathing, rate of calorie burning, and heat production. It does this by creating two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Thyroid disorder is an umbrella term for several conditions. It is a common disorder — around 20 million people in the United States have thyroid disease.
Hyperthyroidism causes the thyroid gland to make too many hormones, while hypothyroidism causes the thyroid gland not to make enough.
Thyroid hormones are crucial for brain development and influence critical processes like nerve cell growth and myelination, which helps the brain transmit information. They also affect brain function throughout life and can potentially
Disruptions in brain function can affect a person’s cognition and behavior, which may
Thyroid hormone deficiency may
A 2020 study found that maternal hypothyroidism increases the risk of ADHD diagnosis in the child, especially in preterm Hispanic boys. Even children exposed to mildly low thyroid levels (hypothyroxinemia) in early pregnancy showed
Thyroid disorders and ADHD both have unique symptoms, some of which overlap. This section compares the symptoms of ADHD with two thyroid disorders.
Hypothyroidism happens when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. When this happens, thyroid function declines, affecting bodily functions like metabolism, cognition, and sleep.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism is caused by an overproduction of the thyroid hormone, leading to the overactivity of certain body functions.
|difficulty paying attention and staying focused
|lack of short-term working memory
|making careless mistakes
Much evidence suggests that the two conditions are linked and frequently coexist. However, no studies confirm that one disorder directly causes or increases the risk of having the other condition.
While having one condition may increase the chance of having the other disorder, more research is needed to assess how high these chances are.
Here are some potential causes of ADHD and thyroid disorders.
What causes ADHD?
The exact cause of ADHD is still unclear, but recent studies link ADHD with genetic factors. Differences in brain anatomy and function, including neurotransmitter levels, may also play a role.
Some people may also be more at risk of ADHD. Researchers are investigating
- exposure to environmental toxins in the womb or at a young age
- premature birth
- low birth weight
- exposure to alcohol and tobacco while in the womb
- brain injury
What causes thyroid disorders?
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be caused by other diseases that impact the functioning of the thyroid gland. These include:
Thyroid disease and ADHD can be challenging to diagnose because their symptoms can also be seen in several other conditions.
For thyroid disease, specific tests can help determine if a thyroid problem is causing the symptoms. These may include:
- thyroid exam and physical exam
- blood tests like TSH test and T4
- iodine uptake tests
- an ultrasound exam to check for thyroid nodules
- aspiration biopsy to check if a nodule is cancerous
There is no single test that can diagnose ADHD. A psychiatrist will determine if the person’s symptoms meet the criteria for ADHD based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).
Psychiatric professionals will check for symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity for at least 6 months in more than two settings, such as school, work, or home. The specialist will also explore whether other conditions may be causing the symptoms.
Thyroid disorders have several symptoms that may also be seen in people with ADHD, making a misdiagnosis possible.
It is also possible for a person living with a thyroid disorder to be correctly diagnosed with ADHD but have their thyroid disorder go unrecognized and undiagnosed.
The treatment for thyroid disorders depends on their type and symptoms. Doctors give individuals with hypothyroidism thyroid hormone pills that provide the body with the hormones necessary to function properly. This treatment is often lifelong.
The treatment for hyperthyroidism depends on its symptoms, cause, and the person’s preference. Treatments
- medications like antithyroid drugs and beta-blockers
- radioactive iodine, which permanently kills the thyroid cells
- thyroid surgery
There are many treatment options for ADHD. What works best depends on the child and their family. Standard treatments include:
Early detection and management are essential for both conditions. A person who suspects that they or their child has a thyroid disorder or ADHD should seek the help of a doctor who can diagnose and rule out other conditions that can be mistaken for thyroid disease or ADHD.
It is also essential for a person to mention if their symptoms are interfering with their daily life or if their current treatment isn’t helping. A doctor may switch them to another treatment or add one to the person’s current regimen.
All forms of thyroid diseases and ADHD tend to persist throughout a person’s life but can be treated with medication, support, and education.
A person with ADHD and thyroid disease can live a normal, productive life. However, most would require lifelong management and treatment.