Do You Suffer from Brain Fog, Fatigue, and Depression? It May Be Your Thyroid

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Psychiatrists are often quick to diagnose symptoms of brain fog and fatigue as depression, prescribe antidepressant medications, and call it good. But in large number of instances, these symptoms actually have an entirely different cause: low thyroid. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss how your thyroid function can cause symptoms that masquerade as depression, and how you can find out if your thyroid may be to blame for your illnesses.


Read Full Transcript

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit

Welcome to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast, and stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation, as well as any of our supplements at

Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Today, we're going to talk about something very important and that has to do with this butterfly-looking gland in your neck, and you know more about this than you want to know.

Tana Amen: Than I want to.

Dr Daniel Amen: We're going to talk about thyroid and how important getting that gland healthy is. I saw a girl recently who was severely depressed and when she came to me, they wanted to put her on Abilify, which is an antipsychotic.

Tana Amen: I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say they've been on antipsychotics, they've been on antidepressants, they have been put on so many medications. No one checked their thyroid, and when they did, they had a thyroid problem.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, you remember when ...

Tana Amen: I wanted to die.

Dr Daniel Amen: Chloe's second grade teacher talked to you. What did she say to you?

Tana Amen: Well, her whole life was unraveling. This is a woman who was very intelligent. She was so sweet, such a good teacher, and she just suddenly couldn't focus. She didn't know what was happening with her. She came in, she was like, "I have a brain fog. I can't focus. This isn't normal for me." When she came in, I said, "Go get your antibodies checked. Please go get your thyroid antibody's checked." She went to her doctor. She said, "They won't check them." If I hear that one more time, I cannot tell you, they don't have the right, they're not your boss, they're not your mommy, they're not your daddy. They can't tell you they're not going to do it. Okay? It's so annoying to me. I cannot tell you, because I've been ...

Dr Daniel Amen: They can tell you, you just have to fire them and go find someone else.

Tana Amen: Right. Go get another doctor, because I've been through thyroid hell, so that is just not acceptable. I'm like, "What do you mean ...

Dr Daniel Amen: She came to me ...

Tana Amen: They said you can't do that?" She came in ...

Dr Daniel Amen: She came to see me and I tested her.

Tana Amen: Well, no. Wait. She thought she needed a brain scan, but when she came in, the first thing you said is, "Let's not do that yet. Maybe you do, but let's get your blood work done first, because I have a sense that this might be something else." The first thing you did was check her antibodies.

Dr Daniel Amen: A lot of times, well, let's talk about what the thyroid gland does. I almost think of it like the body's idle, that it helps you have energy.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: It increases your metabolism, it helps you think, it really activates all of the organs, including your brain, and when it's low in activity, for all sorts of reasons, you feel ... Well, you tell the people how you feel.

Tana Amen: When I started to suspect there was a problem, it's because I had, what you would consider, probably what looked like an Adam's apple. Well, women don't have Adam's apples. There started to be this little bump in my throat, I started to lose weight, sort of, unexplainably, and I was a little bit shaky. Prior to that, though, what's really weird, was that I was more brain fog, tired, lethargic, didn't feel right. I did have Hashimoto's, but when I went and got checked, I actually had thyroid cancer. Fortunately now, the treatments are very different. When they took my thyroid gland out and I went through radiation treatments, back then you had to actually be off of all thyroid medication for quite some time. You had to have, like, no thyroid in your system type of thing before they would give you the radiation.

No one really explained to me that with no thyroid in your system what you were going to feel like. Really what you're going to feel like is like death, okay? I gained like a whole bunch of weight really fast, and they did explain to me that that was normal. I went from working out every day to not being able to climb a flight of stairs without just like being out of breath. Your muscles kind of aches, you're very fatigued, but the depression that set in was just incredible. It took a long time for me to climb out of that once it set in. Then I went to the opposite extreme because the cancer kept coming back. Once the cancer keeps coming back, the chemotherapy for me is to put me on high-dose thyroid, and so I got really wired, and they never bothered checking. It's very complicated because you have different forms of thyroid in your system. You've to T4, T3, all this different stuff.

They didn't balance my thyroid and they were giving me all of one type of thyroid and my energy was off, so they were giving me very high-dose thyroid but not balancing it correctly. It's too complicated to explain the whole thing. I was just wired for sound. I mean, you've even seen me like that. I was 275 mcg. For someone my size, it's just a ton of thyroid. It was all T4. I wasn't converting it to the type of thyroid that was helping me with energy and I was shaking, I was wired, and tired during the day, could not sleep at night. I literally thought I was going to lose my mind.

Dr Daniel Amen: Hot all the time.

Tana Amen: Just crazy hot, and just wired.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's like taking your idle, setting it way too high, ...

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And people can have diarrhea, they can have muscle cramps, they have racing thoughts, ...

Tana Amen: It puts you at risk for osteoporosis.

Dr Daniel Amen: They have a lot of anxiety.

Tana Amen: Risk for osteoporosis, muscle wasting.

Dr Daniel Amen: They're hot when other people are cold.

Tana Amen: When I would complain, right, and when I would complain about it ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Like me.

Tana Amen: Freezing, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: I'm like, I have to just wear a sweater.

Tana Amen: I would complain about it, but the doctor would tell me, "This is what you have to live with. Be grateful that you have these meds. Learn how to live it." He actually suggested that I see a psychiatrist, which just still infuriates me. I literally, that's when I fired him.

Dr Daniel Amen: That is not how we met.

Tana Amen: No, but that's when I, we were already married, and that's when I, ... I was just furious at that. It's not like I have no clue.

Dr Daniel Amen: This is a guy that had Snickers and cookies in his waiting room.

Tana Amen: He's famous. This guy's famous for treating celebrities. I found a new doctor who now, if something happens to you, I'll probably have to, like, take care of him because he's much, much, much older, but I love this man because literally he saved my life. I mean, literally saved my life.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right, so how do people know if they have a thyroid problem? If you feel fatigued or tired during the day, even when you got enough sleep. Do you often feel cold when others are fine or they are warm? Or the opposite of that, do you often feel warm when others say they are cold.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's what happens between us. Do you have problems with brittle or dry hair; dry skin; sweating; chronic anxiety, tension usually with too much; depression when there is too little.

Tana Amen: The anxiety if it's too high, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: In fact, even if you are ... So, typically, when you go to the doctor, they'll measure your T4 and TSH.

Tana Amen: Right, but they need to measure T3 probably, too.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, we believe if we suspect a problem at all, not only do you need to measure those, you need to measure your thyroid antibodies.

Tana Amen: Absolutely.

Dr Daniel Amen: In the teachers case, her TSH and T4 were normal, and her thyroid antibodies were crazy high, which means ...

Tana Amen: It's becoming more and more common.

Dr Daniel Amen: That means your body is attacking your thyroid ...

Tana Amen: Itself, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: Gland. That it's attacking itself. Sometimes, even when thyroid is normal, it's not optimal ...

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: And we use it as a treatment for resistant depression. I still remember Margaret, somebody I treated, goodness, 28 years ago, who was very depressed. She was diagnosed as borderline. Nothing worked.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: ACT didn't work. I remember a lecture in my residency that said, "Even if their thyroid's normal, giving them thyroid can help with resistant depression." It just cured her. I mean it was unbelievable how effective that was. This is a really important topic and when you started with if the doctor won't thoroughly evaluate your thyroid, then, you know, have a chat with him or her, and if they still won't do it, go find another doctor.

Tana Amen: Right, and I'm passionate about that because I've suffered so much. I think it's really important for people to understand. We've talked about the symptoms and how awful it feels and if you are feeling those symptoms, yes, you might have depression, but you might not. You might have something else, right? You might have anxiety, but you could have a thyroid problem. You should at least know. That's why we always say get your important numbers checked. The thing is, is why this is so important. I've been on this roller coaster to hell, right, and once they got it balanced, I mean, my doctor now, I just adore him, literally within two weeks of being ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Do I need to be worried?

Tana Amen: Well, you actually flew up there to meet him because I kept raving about how awesome he was. I mean, don't get me wrong, he's older, but he's just ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, I'm older.

Tana Amen: No, he's much older than you.

Dr Daniel Amen: You like older guys.

Tana Amen: No, he's much older than you. My biggest fear is he's going to retire, or something's going to happen him, because he's so awesome. Anyways, within two weeks, I felt like someone took a straight jacket off of me. The anxiety went away. I was sleeping like a baby at night. I'm like, "What is going on? Why would nobody listen to me?" He looked at me, and I said to him, "Why did no one else do this? Why did no one else listen to me?" He shrugged his shoulders. He goes, "They think I'm an idiot." He goes, "I am the idiot savant of thyroid." He goes, "I've been doing,", he's up at UCSF, he goes, "I've been studying this stuff and staying in my cave and, like, I treat people." He's like, "I know they think I'm crazy. I don't care. I get great results." It reminded me of you, who got criticism for a long time. People fly in from all over the world to see this guy. He's awesome. He's just amazing. If you a tricky case, he's a really good guy to see. His name is Nathan Becker.

Within two weeks, I felt so much better. That's why it's so important because I thought I was losing my mind. I mean, I literally, at one point, was just like, I went from being super depressed when I was younger, to, like, now I'm wired all the time. I can't sleep. I'm shaky. I can't settle down. I'm like, I know how to take care of myself. Why is this happening? I'm following my doctor's instructions and it won't go away, and they won't listen to me. I finally found someone who really understands.

Dr Daniel Amen: For people who are listening, ...

Tana Amen: I'm passionate.

Dr Daniel Amen: What are a couple of things they can do besides go see Dr. Becker?

Tana Amen: Get your numbers checked, but really find someone in your area, if you can't go see him, I would call and get a referral not to just any endocrinologist, someone who really understands thyroid specifically, so who really understands thyroid problems. Understand what's going on, know how to treat it. The traditional, "We're going to do nothing but western medicine.", isn't always the way you do it. They won't even run your antibodies half of the time. Find a doctor who will actually listen.

Dr Daniel Amen: Stay with us.
Thank you for listening to the Brain Warriors Way Podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a few signed copy of the Brain Warriors Way and the Brain Warriors Way Cookbook we give away every month.