Cushings Disease & Mental Illness

Updated April 17, 2017

Cushings disease is a severe hormonal disorder linked to overly high cortisol amounts that can cause serious mental problems. To complicate matters, Cushings also manifests itself as pseudo-Cushings, a syndrome in which cortisol levels are too high, but for other reasons, such as other types of endocrine disorders, severe anxiety and other problems. For those dogged by Cushings, the motor is always running on high due to the overabundance of cortisol. Careful monitoring is needed to control the disease's worst aspects.

About Cushings

Cushings can be adrenal- or pituitary-based from tumours in these glands, or even due to forms of cancers. Other causes stem from steroids--such as Cortef or prednisone--prescribed for other health problems.

What High Cortisol Problems Do Physically

Overabundant cortisol levels can cause many physical problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, insulin resistance, thinning skin and hair, muscle weakness, osteoporosis and severe weight gains.

What High Cortisol Problems Do Mentally

Cushings causes many mental problems, including panic attacks and feelings of doom, depression, fatigue, irritability, nervousness and sleep deprivation. Severe anxiety is also related to pseudo-Cushings. Low libido is part of the disorder as well.

Severe Psychiatric Disturbances

In severe cases of Cushings, psychosis and depression requiring hospitalisation are not unknown. Mania and even euphoria are other possible outcomes, along with brain fog and forgetfulness. Over the long haul, cortisol can affect the brain negatively, leading to a high risk for Alzheimer's and dementia.

Health Problems Lead to Mental Problems

Many symptoms affect the sufferer's appearance--especially the odd weight distribution, severe weight gain, and "buffalo hump," in which the back curves on top, creating a hump--so it should not be surprising that patients can suffer self-esteem and depression issues based on poor health and an abnormal body.


Cushings, pseudo-Cushings and other serious endocrine disorders are often misdiagnosed. It is not uncommon for people with severe endocrine disorders to end up in psychological care or hospitalised without the main cause of their problems being discovered.

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About the Author

A former teacher and social worker, Lisa Quinlan is an artist and writer with disabilities. She specializes in writing articles about painting and cartooning for various websites and also covers culture- and health-related subjects.