Social Stress Due to Thyroid Hormones

thyroid hormone

Feelings of defeat, disappointment, and social rejection may contribute to alterations of stress and thyroid hormones.While studies in humans would be unethical, researchers have created controlled socially stressful situations to test animals’ hormonal responses to social stress.Scientists exposed male rats to a “social defeat situation”, where “intruder” rats were dropped into the cages of unfamiliar rat couples.The presence of a rat female makes rat males territorial, so this was like a burglar breaking into the home of a married couple in the rat’s eyes.

The females were taken out before the intruder males were dropped in. The intruder rats were attacked by the resident male rat, and as soon as they were defeated, they were put into a smaller cage, within the resident’s cage, and left in the same cage. Being inside of the little cage within a cage ensured that the intruder rats were still exposed to the winning rats scent reminding them that they were defeated.Researchers repeated this over and over with the poor intruder rats.Four weeks of getting dropped into different rat cages and getting attacked by other rats left the intruder rats with altered thyroid hormones.

T4 and T3 levels dropped by about 50% after one week of this social stress, within 4 weeks, the rats started exhibiting behaviors that might reflect a loss of motivation (less exploring) and an inability to experience pleasure (not eating sugar, a favorite rat activity).A different group of researchers did a study in sheep, and isolated them from their flocks, then measured thyroid hormones. Sure enough sheep that were isolated from their flocks were found to have altered thyroid hormone levels.

I can’t stress the importance of having a sense of community,support, and simply a person to talk to when going through your life, and especially though your health journey. Time and time again, the people who do best have a strong support network, while the people who I continue to see struggling often lack social support and feel isolated, rejected, and unsupported. Social stress and lack of support can either prevent us from implementing the changes we need to get better, or put us in a state of “fight or flight” instead of “rest and digest”. Whenever we’re in a poor emotional state, unhappy, or stressed out, our body’s natural defenses are weakened and cannot properly reset the immune system- we need a team who can offer us love, encouragement, and support.I know that I would not have been able to get to where I am today without the amazing support I have received over the years since I was diagnosed.

October 23, 2018

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