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Acute Hyperthyroidism: Cognitive and Emotional Correlates

CITATION:  Wallace, J.E., and MacCrimmon, D.J.  (1980). Acute Hyperthyroidism: Cognitive and Emotional Correlates.  Journal of Abnormal Psychology Vol. 89, No. 4, 519-527.

ABSTRACT:   The nature of cognitive disturbance and psychological distress was evaluated
in 19 acutely hyperthyroid women and in 19 demographically comparable women with normal thyroid function. A structured psychiatric interview, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and a battery of brief repeatable tests of motor speed, attention, selective attention, and short-term verbal memory were employed prior to treatment with radioactive iodine, 3 weeks later, and 6-12 months later when normal thyroid function was established.  Thyroid-normal women were similarly evaluated. Multiple regression analysis revealed not only cognitive deficits consistent with central nervous system toxicity but also a classic neurotic picture strongly associated with severity of pretreatment thyroid toxicity, measured by serum thyroxin (T4). The relation between T4 and cognitive deficits was not apparent 3 weeks later, but the relation between T4 and a neurotic picture persisted. Final evaluation showed no relation between cognitive or personality function and earlier hyperthyroidism. Results suggest that the effects of thyroid toxicity are reflected in symptoms of neurotic emotional disturbance that may be transient rather than indicative of personality traits.

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