Medically reviewed by
Dr. Minako Abe, M.D., Board-certified emergency medicine physician researching the relationship between lifestyle and disease onset in relation to the immune system and cancer, Japan
Staying on top of your thyroid condition can be difficult and pull focus from your overall well-being. Here are some tips on how to balance your thyroid and mental health.
Your thyroid is a small gland at the base of your throat that is responsible for controlling a variety of bodily functions through hormone signaling.
Because it is implicated in processes throughout the body and across most biological activities, impaired thyroid health can be very serious and difficult to consistently manage.
Consequently, it is easy to neglect aspects of self-care impacting mental health, which is equally important in managing overall health.
This article will discuss the following topics:
- How does your mental health relate to your thyroid condition?
- What are some of the signs of poor mental health?
- Tips on how to stay on top of your mental health
Your Mental Health and Thyroid Health
Living with a thyroid condition can be mentally taxing; on top of coming to terms with a diagnosis of thyroid disease and adjusting to compromised health, many individuals with thyroid conditions have life-long journeys of tracking their physical health and lifestyle changes.
This process is very profound and often affects a person’s sense of self. Studies have shown that there is a significant relationship between thyroid diseases and anxiety disorders. Some common symptoms include:
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Cold intolerance
- Anxiety and irritability
- Low mood
As these symptoms accumulate, this can make balancing a social and personal life very difficult. Thyroid medications can help to mitigate some of the physiological effects but ultimately, managing one’s mental health is an active process that requires personal attention and care.
Signs of Poor Mental Health
- Social withdrawal → When dealing with a chronic illness, it is very easy to de-prioritize forming new friendships or nurturing old ones as health management tends to pull focus away from other activities. What may start as an occasional unanswered text or an email that is left in the inbox too long can quickly turn into long-term social distancing or a lack of motivation to put oneself out there. This can turn into a vicious cycle where social isolation encourages further withdrawal.
- Changes in appetite and weight → Because thyroid conditions are implicated in hormone balancing that affects energy consumption, studies show that many individuals living with thyroid conditions experience changing appetites, causing erratic fluctuations in weight. Not only is this unhealthy as it predisposes individuals to disordered eating habits and weight-related chronic conditions such as obesity and heart disease, but it is also a catalyst for body image issues that further affect mental health.
- Fatigue → Alterations in thyroid functions itself can lead to fatigue, and those with thyroid disease may also find it difficult to sleep, which may be related to other symptoms such as cold intolerance.
- Changes in behavior → If you find yourself feeling irritable, unduly sad or frequently anxious, it may be a sign that you’re experiencing poor mental health.
Tips For Managing Your Mental Health
Getting enough sleep is important in supporting your mental health and feeling energized. If you are having difficulty sleeping, consider the following tips:
- Use sleep aid noises → Some apps offer nighttime routine aids that help improve sleep quality and reduce stress. You can also use curated playlists from Spotify or Youtube by searching for white noise, natural sounds, classical music or whatever supports your sleep.
- Use essential oil diffusers → Studies have shown that essential oils have calming effects and may contribute to deeper, better quality sleep.
- Wear appropriate pajamas and heating pads → One consequence of thyroid conditions is heat and/or cold intolerance. If you run hot, consider wearing light, breathable fabrics or conversely warm, comfortable nightclothes.
Keep a Journal
Journaling is an excellent way to check in with yourself and assess your mental state. There are several ways in which to engage with this activity:
- An agenda → Keeping an agenda can allow you to track your day and responsibilities in advance. This can be helpful in reducing your anxiety by keeping your thoughts organized and making sure you don’t forget anything important, like taking your thyroid medication.
- A diary → You can also choose to reflect back at the end of the day and write a small entry to recount any important events, whether it relates to your social life or thyroid health. Focusing on small wins every day can be particularly helpful.
- Bare bones journaling → If your day is very busy, you may not have time for an exhaustive recounting of your day that you might associate with journaling. Instead, focus on briefly noting down key elements of your day; such as writing down the amount of sleep, water, food/meals, and emotions you have experienced throughout the day. This way, you can track daily changes and compare over longer periods of time. Alternatively, you can just write about one memorable thing that stuck out to you that day, which can help you identify an event that may have affected your physical or mental health.
Whether it is taking a walk around the block, going for a hike, going to the gym, or engaging in a favorite sport, staying physically active can be very helpful in boosting your mood.
By engaging your body and building a sense of achievement through regular activity, and by releasing endorphins, exercise is a great way to support your mental health.
Manage Your Diet
The food we eat affects every aspect of our health, including our mental well-being. Eating a balanced diet incorporating more vegetables and fruits is a good starting point.
An anti-inflammatory diet can also help to mitigate some symptoms associated with poor mental and thyroid health including sluggishness, insomnia, and fluctuating moods.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Meditation is a great way to connect with yourself, temporarily setting aside your worries and practicing introspection. By paying close attention to your emotions and mental state, it is possible to identify unresolved issues such as anxiety or stress, and address them appropriately.
Meditation can look different for different people, but here are some general tips that you may find useful:
- Start by setting aside just a few minutes a day for meditation
- Find a quiet and comfortable place
- Close your eyes and take several deep breaths, focusing on a prolonged exhalation
- Take some time to clear your mind by focusing on your breathing
- Identify what you are feeling physically and mentally
- If any particular thoughts or emotions arise, take note and address them as soon as you can afterward.
Find A Thyroid Community
One of the best ways to support your mental health as a thyroid patient is to connect with other individuals who may be going through similar conditions or experiences.
There are regional support groups, online forums, and following thyroid health apps like ThyForLife with our own anonymous community can provide much-needed information and support.
- Your thyroid is a small gland at the base of your throat that is responsible for a variety of bodily functions through hormone signaling.
- Impaired thyroid health is generally very serious and can be difficult to manage consistently. Consequently, it is easy to neglect aspects of self-care impacting mental health, which is equally important in managing overall health.
- There is a significant relationship between thyroid disease and anxiety or mood disorders.
- Thyroid medications can help mitigate some of the physiologic effects caused by thyroid disorders, but ultimately, managing one’s mental health is an active process that requires personal attention and care.
- Signs of poor mental health include social withdrawal, changes in appetite/weight, fatigue and changes in behavior.
- Some ways to manage your mental health include getting enough sleep, keeping a journal, exercising, eating a balanced diet, practicing meditation, and finding a thyroid community.
You can find more information on thyroid disease, healthy recipes, as well as lifestyle advice on the ThyForLife website, and also keep track of how lifestyle changes affect your thyroid-related symptoms using the ThyForLife app.