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J Clin Psychiatry. 1995 May;56(5):186-92.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism in major depression revisited.

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  • 1Depression Research Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114, USA.



The aim of our study was to evaluate the prevalence of thyroid abnormalities among depressed outpatients and to examine the response to treatment of those subjects with relatively low or high thyroid hormone levels.


Outpatients (N = 200) 18 to 65 years of age who met DSM-III-R criteria for major depression were screened for the presence of thyroid abnormalities using a number of thyroid indices. Of these patients, 166 were then treated openly with the antidepressant fluoxetine for 12 weeks. We assessed whether patients with relatively low or high thyroid hormone levels had a different response to treatment compared with other patients. The 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D-17) was administered during the study to assess changes in depressive symptoms. Thyroid function was assessed by measuring T3, T4, free T4 index (FT4I), T3 uptake (T3U), and serum thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.


No clinical cases of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism were detected. Of the patients examined, 5 (2.6%) had slightly elevated TSH levels (range, 4.7-8.2); none of these had T4 or FT4I levels below the normal range. Subnormal levels of T4 or FT4I were found in 1 subject (0.5%). T3 and T3U levels were below the normal range in a larger number of patients (7.6% and 15.0% respectively), but only 1 of these patients had elevated TSH levels. None of the patients had levels of TSH below the normal range, and only 3 subjects (1.5%) had T4 levels above the normal range. No relationship was found between response rate (assessed as either change in HAM-D-17 score or as remission of depressive symptoms with a HAM-D-17 score < or = 7 for 3 consecutive weeks) and each of the thyroid tests, even after adjusting for baseline severity of depression.


In depressed outpatients, it appears that hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are extremely uncommon and that the presence of subtle thyroid function abnormalities does not have an impact on treatment outcome.

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