Living with Hashimoto's Disease

Hashimoto's disease can be difficult to navigate because it affects so many aspects of your health and well-being. The condition can cause a range of problems, from unwanted weight gain to fuzzy thinking to sexual dysfunction. Studies have found that people with Hashimoto's disease are more likely to develop symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders.

What Is Hashimoto's Disease?

Hashimoto's disease, also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. This process impairs the thyroid's ability to produce natural thyroid hormones, and it causes lower than normal thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism). Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism, and low levels of these hormones result in a slow metabolism.

Even though Hashimoto's disease is a chronic condition, it doesn't have to take over your life. With the right coping strategies, you can continue to thrive while keeping your condition under control.

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Emotional Strategies

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that rests low in your neck, just in front of your trachea. Even though it is small in size, your thyroid produces hormones that are responsible for overall well-being. Disruptions in thyroid hormone levels can cause mental and emotional problems like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Loss of alertness
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings

Blood tests are able to detect levels of thyroid hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) produced in your pituitary gland.

As your thyroid hormone levels fluctuate, you can move quickly from jittery and anxious to tired and disinterested in most things. If your thyroid-stimulating hormone levels drop too low with your treatment plan, you may need your medication dose lowered. Likewise, fatigue and disinterest in your daily activities could be signs that your TSH levels are too high and you need an increase in your medication dose.

Dealing with a chronic disease is enough to cause stress, depression, and anxiety, but in thyroid disease, emotional problems may signal a need to change how you and your doctor manage your condition.

Some things that may help to counteract the negative emotions that can come with Hashimoto's disease include:

  • Healthy diet and exercise
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relaxation strategies, such as meditation
  • Yoga
  • Support groups

Lifestyle Strategies

A healthy diet and exercise plan can help address a number of health issues. There is no diet or exercise program that will prevent or cure Hashimoto's disease, but eating well and staying active may help you manage your symptoms.

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with meat in moderation, and avoiding fried or processed foods may improve your symptoms. Diets that could help people with Hashimoto's disease include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory diet: This diet focuses on foods that lower your thyroid's immune response, such as berries, spinach, and fish like tuna and salmon that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Dairy-free diet: Lactose can cause inflammation in the gut or even an allergic response in some people. Avoiding dairy and substituting nondairy products like oat milk can help.
  • Gluten-free or grain-free diet: Like dairy, gluten, which is found in many foods with grain, is linked to inflammation and allergic responses in the body. Avoiding foods high in gluten, like breads and pastas, may help lower inflammation and temper your thyroid's immune response.
  • Mediterranean diet: The Mediterranean diet focuses on a reduction in processed foods and an increase in vegetables and fruits, moderate portions of dairy, and a limited amount of red meat in favor of fish, poultry, beans, and eggs.
  • Whole foods diet: Processed foods are linked to higher levels of inflammation. A whole foods diet eliminates processed foods and promotes eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

Endorphins released during exercise may help combat feelings of anxiety and depression. Some studies have even shown that exercise helps offset symptoms like weakness and improves the overall quality of life for people with thyroid disease.

Social Strategies

All of the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease, particularly fatigue, depression, and anxiety, can have a big impact on your social life. Maybe you are too tired and not feeling your best because of joint and muscle discomfort, puffiness and weight gain, or brain fog and mood swings to go out with family and friends. You may even be experiencing problems with your love life since both men and women with thyroid disease can experience sexual dysfunction.

Having a strong support system can help you overcome these challenges. Enlist friends and family members to help you cope with your condition. Also, seek out others with the same condition online or through community support groups. Recognizing that you are not alone and sharing coping strategies can help you and allow you to help others in your situation.

Practical Strategies

Consistency is key when learning how to cope with Hashimoto's disease. While it may seem overwhelming at first, the key to many of the treatment strategies for this condition is regularity. Since Hashimoto's disease may cause forgetfulness or a fuzzy memory, you can use apps to help you track your medications, symptoms, diet, and activities.

Some apps that are designed to keep you on track with your treatments are:

Summary

Hashimoto's disease and the health problems it causes can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Asking others for help, whether they are friends and family or support groups, is key to overcoming these feelings and minimizing the emotional toll this condition can take.

A Word From Verywell

Hashimoto's disease can be a difficult condition to live with, and getting diagnosed with this condition can be overwhelming. However, even though Hashimoto's disease and the hypothyroidism it causes can have widespread effects on your mind and body, it doesn't need to control your life. With good treatment, a healthy lifestyle, and a strong support system, you can still live a full and happy life even with chronic disease. Remember to take time to care for yourself not only physically but also emotionally.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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