Thyroid conditions can be challenging, confusing, frustrating, and perhaps worst of all, lonely. Even though an estimated 20 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease, many do not have contact with or know others going through similar struggles.
Without support from others who are able to empathize and understand the difficulties of a thyroid condition, living with a disorder can be incredibly difficult. Fortunately, there are many online communities full of caring, knowledgeable, and supportive individuals focused on helping those with thyroid conditions.
Why Should I Join an Online Community?
Joining an online community provides many benefits and can help newly diagnosed or lifelong thyroid patients along their journey to thyroid wellness. Some may be apprehensive when joining an online group, but the many benefits gained from engaging in a healthy and thriving thyroid community can be invaluable.
Those suffering from a thyroid condition are likely familiar with the experience of telling friends, acquaintances and even doctors about their symptoms only to have these concerns brushed off or discounted. Repeatedly experiencing this situation has serious mental and physical ramifications regarding thyroid health. Not only does this social rejection promote a sense of alienation and separation but it may actually disrupt thyroid function further.
Mental stressors such as disappointment, rejection, and loneliness can contribute to hormone and thyroid disruption. Animal studies have shown that when exposed to “social defeat situations” notable changes in thyroid hormone activity may develop. Rats who were repeatedly forced into submissive social positions by more aggressive or alpha rats and remained in the same environment showed a significant decrease in thyroid hormone levels. After one week of living with regular social stress, the test population showed a decrease of T4 and T3 at about 50%. At approximately four weeks the rats expressed behaviors that could be likened to depression or hypothyroidism (less physical activity, lack of exploration, and little interest in pleasurable activities such as eating sugar). The study shows that social anxiety and alienation has a significant impact on thyroid function and may worsen an already present condition. Similar anxieties can occur in humans.
One of the best ways to counteract social defeat and alienation relating to thyroid disease is by joining a supportive online community. Thyroid patients are often misunderstood by socially important figures such as employers, friends, and family. When lacking emotional support from such individuals, an online community can help by providing a platform for scared, concerned, or frustrated thyroid patients to express their emotions in a healthy environment of understanding.
There are few opportunities in everyday life to express individual thyroid concerns to an audience that is already well-informed and empathetic to the situation. Sharing and discussing one’s personal thyroid experience with other thyroid patients can be a cathartic and mentally restorative action. Doing so may alleviate anxiety and limit the physiological and mental effects of stress.
The internet contains an endless amount of information on the thyroid. This can be overwhelming to a person who has not already done some research or does not know what they are looking for specifically. Online support groups provide a wealth of information that has been sifted and sorted based on the group’s focus. This can reduce the steep learning curve of doing independent research online. Furthermore, inquiring within groups may also allow for quicker acquisition of difficult to find information.
Depending on the type of group, content can range from personal experiences, professional recommendations, or directions to medical articles and research. Common components of thyroid support groups include discussion of tests, treatments, medications, symptoms, and doctors. Engaging in these topics can help individuals implement healthy change and combat detrimental emotional or mental states.
Regardless of the group, a thyroid community should be able to provide the following benefits:
- A platform to share without judgment
- Better understanding of individual conditions
- Emotional support
- Exposure to other thyroid patients
- Social support
- Techniques to improve interactions with medical professionals
- Useful and relevant information
Jumping into the world of online communities can be overwhelming. To alleviate the stress of going in blind, we have listed a few quality groups that are full of excellent resources while promoting and maintaining a helpful and supportive environment.
Hypothyroid Mom is a thriving community that provides a large range of information from thyroid lifestyle recommendations to more technical discussions of thyroid conditions. If there is a specific question about the thyroid or a thyroid-related issue, it is likely that Hypothyroid Mom has an article or discussion relating to it.
Thyroid Nation is a group driven by personal experiences provided by thyroid patients in the community. Much of this group is about sharing individual struggles, successes, and tips for living with thyroid or autoimmune conditions. This is an excellent community for those looking for support, motivation, or wanting to engage with others who have experienced thyroid disease first hand.
Real Life with Thyroid Disease
VeryWell Health is an excellent resource for information on many complex conditions including the various forms of thyroid disease. Their Facebook group Real Life with Thyroid Disease regularly shares useful articles, motivational posts, and promotes informative discussions within their community. In addition to Very Well’s thyroid page, there are many other excellent thyroid related Facebook communities including Hashimoto’s 411, Living with Hashimoto’s Disease, and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Support Group.
The Invisible Hypothyroidism
The Invisible Hypothyroidism is an award winning patient advocacy blog that includes the personal account of a thyroid patient, Rachel Hill, and advice and information surrounding thyroid disease. Her Facebook group
Thyroid Family: Hypothyroidism Advice & Support Group
is a place for those with thyroid disease to interact with others in the way of supporting each other, sharing personal experiences, and even asking for advice.
Finding the Right Group
Living with a thyroid condition can be challenging if you’re on your own. Fortunately, the internet makes it easy to join supportive and informational online communities. Engaging in such groups increases knowledge, familiarity, and understanding of thyroid disease. Because there are so many different groups, you have a good chance of finding one that provides exactly what you need.
The camaraderie and community that can be found in these communities provide multiple mental benefits that can positively impact wellness. Take a look at the groups suggested above or do your own research and find the right thyroid community for you.
1. Finding Thyroid Support Groups Online. VeryWell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/finding-thyroid-support-and-support-groups-online-3233103
2. Best Online Support. Thyroid Loving Care. http://thyroidlovingcare.com/best-online-support
3. Getting Support in Hashimoto’s. Thyroid Pharmacist. https://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/getting-support-in-hashimotos/