Coping With Thyroid Disease

How to handle the emotional and physical side effects post-diagnosis

In This Article

Table of Contents

Your thyroid is responsible for making thyroid hormones such as thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), which help control your metabolism and other functions such as your heart rate, cholesterol levels, menstrual cycle, and more. Regardless of whether your thyroid is making too much of the thyroid hormones (leading to hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease) or not enough of the thyroid hormones (leading to hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease) your mood and weight are among two of the biggest things affected by a thyroid disease diagnosis.

Here’s how to handle some of the most common side effects, plus where to find support to feel better.

Emotional

Your hormones are directly linked to your mood, and when you aren’t producing enough thyroid hormones you may experience depression and fatigue. Alternatively, too much of the hormones can lead to anxiety and irritability, as well as disrupted sleep, affecting your overall mood as well.

Managing a condition such as thyroid disease is a lifelong process, so it’s important to have the proper pillars of support. If you feel depressed or are showing signs of depression or anxiety, tell your doctor and look into a therapist or mental health counselor. Together, your doctor and therapist can determine the best treatment plan for you. They can recommend self-care techniques you can implement at home and prescribe medication if needed.

It’s important to remember that feelings of depression and anxiety are normal when dealing with thyroid disease, and are so prevalent that they are the red flags that can lead to a proper thyroid disease diagnosis.

With recognition and proper treatment, you can combat these feelings so that they don’t burden your day-to-day life.

Physical

Depending on the type of thyroid disease you have, the physical symptoms range from sudden weight gain or loss, constipation, fatigue, sweating, irregular heartbeat, sensitivity to high or low temperatures, dry skin, hair loss, and missed or irregular periods.

Once your condition has been diagnosed, you and your doctor will sit down to map out the best treatment plan and medications to manage your disease, including how to approach treatment if you’re trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant.

But the physical changes that come with a chronic disease need to be managed daily, and there are some strategies you can use to help reduce stress and alleviate physical side effects.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Managing Thyroid Disease

  • Regular exercise, an average of 30 minutes a day.
  • Starting a mind-body practice such as yoga, tai chi, or meditation to reduce stress and the physical side effects that come with it.
  • Getting enough sleep each night (on average seven to eight hours) which will help control your appetite, overall mood, and lower your risk of high blood pressure, a common side effect with thyroid disorders.
  • Eating healthy foods that will help you lose excess weight caused by thyroid disease. Avoid processed food, foods with added sugar, and limit your carbohydrate intake will also help relieve bloating and weight gain that’s often linked with some thyroid diseases.

Social

Having a network of friends and family to support you is equally as vital as the correct medication and treatment course your doctor sets out for you. Since there are such large components of emotional management with thyroid disease, you want to make sure you have people you can talk to during the highs and lows of dealing with a chronic disease.

This can be someone to exercise with during the week to help you stick to your routine or an online support group. The National Academy of Hyperthyroidism also offers valuable resources.

For more resources, as well as a way to get involved in the development of thyroid disease education and treatment, you can get involved with leading non-profit thyroid disease charities to help you both connect with others and make a difference in the process.

Practical

Thinking about all of the different moving pieces to living well with thyroid disease can be overwhelming, but the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to try to tackle all of these things alone.

If you’re most concerned about the physical side effects, such as weight gain, ask your doctor for a nutritionist referral to help you establish a healthy diet with foods that will benefit your thyroid and overall health.

If the mental health piece is most concerning to you, a discussion with a therapist will set you up with an arsenal of self-care tips as well as the emotional support you need.

You don’t have to address every need at once, either. Start with the most pressing, and once you feel progress move on to the next. Having a trusted team of specialists and healthcare professionals is key to long-term management of coping and living with thyroid disease.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

  1. Hage MP, Azar ST. The Link between Thyroid Function and Depression. J Thyroid Res. 2012;2012:590648. doi:10.1155/2012/590648

  2. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Thyroid Disease. Updated April 01, 2019.

Additional Reading