Anxiety can have a severe impact on people's quality of life and ability to work and socialise, and anti-anxiety medication does not always have a lasting effect.
Current examinations for anxiety disorders usually focus on dysfunction of the nervous system and do not take into account the role of the endocrine system.
The results presented at the European Society of Endocrinology's e-ECE 2020 Conference being held from September 5 to 9 showed that thyroid inflammation should be investigated as an underlying factor in psychiatric disorders such as anxiety.
"These findings indicate that the endocrine system may play an important role in anxiety. Doctors should also consider the thyroid gland and the rest of the endocrine system as well as the nervous system when examining patients with anxiety," said Juliya Onofriichuk from Kyiv City Clinical hospital in Ukraine.
The thyroid gland produces hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) that are essential for regulating heart, muscle and digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance.
Autoimmune inflammation in the thyroid occurs when our bodies wrongly produce antibodies that attack the gland and cause damage.
Onofriichuk investigated thyroid function in 29 men (average age 33.9) and 27 women (average age 31.7) with diagnosed anxiety who were experiencing panic attacks.
Ultrasounds of their thyroid glands assessed thyroid function and levels of thyroid hormones were measured.
The patients with anxiety showed signs of inflammation of their thyroid glands but their function was not affected with thyroid hormone levels all within the normal range, although slightly elevated.
They also tested positive for antibodies directed against the thyroid. Treatment for 14 days with ibuprofen and thyroxine reduced thyroid inflammation, normalised thyroid hormone levels and reduced their anxiety scores, said the study.
Onofriichuk now plans to conduct further research that examines the levels of thyroid, sex and adrenal hormones -- cortisol, progesterone, prolactin, oestrogen and testosterone -- in patients with dysfunctional thyroid glands and anxiety disorders.