Having an underactive thyroid gland is cause for serious medical concerns, such as higher cholesterol levels, an increase in blood pressure, irregular menstrual periods, fertility issues, and weight gain. At the same time there are a host of mental and emotional symptoms that impact patients. Depression, brain fog, and lack of energy can greatly affect daily life, and prove to be some of the most challenging aspects of dealing with hypothyroidism.
If your partner has hypothyroidism, it can be difficult to understand their needs. A person with hypothyroidism doesn’t usually “look sick,” so it can be easy to brush off their complaints or to think they simply need to power through some of their symptoms. Rest assured, the symptoms are very real and can make fulfilling responsibilities and enjoying time with family and friends a challenge.
Here are some things that are helpful to know in supporting your partner who has hypothyroidism.
Fatigue is one of the symptoms that most impacts someone with hypothyroidism. Your partner may need a lot more downtime than the average person. They may not be able to keep up with your pace and may need to bow out of social engagements. This can be hard on partners who, justifiably, feel ignored or lonely because they are left to do certain things alone.
Know that your partner may wish they could keep up with you or be there for more moments together. Their need to not feel exhausted simply overrides other desires. Trying to power through will likely leave them in worse shape, and in need of more rest, leaving them unable to be there to an even greater degree.
Once a person is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, it takes time to find the right dosage of medicine to bring the body back into balance. Your partner is likely trying to figure out the right balance of activity and rest to be at their best.
Pick up dinner
Offer to take over one of their more physical chores
Plan easily-paced walks
To make things even more challenging, there is a strong correlation between hypothyroidism and depression. It’s actually pretty difficult to tease out which symptoms are the result of which condition. Fatigue, brain fog, and joint and muscle pain, are all symptoms of both depression and hypothyroidism.
Someone who has hypothyroidism may need to explore talk therapy or taking medication for depression. Again, it’s a bit of a juggling act, especially early on, to figure out what methods of treatment are best.
Depression, like fatigue, isn’t all in a person’s head—it’s real. If you think your partner may be experiencing depression along with their hypothyroidism, encourage them to talk with their medical team. Unlike hypothyroidism, which can be diagnosed through blood tests, there are no blood tests that can verify a diagnosis of depression.
A qualified physician can use tools such as screening questionnaires, clinical observations, and conversations with a patient to determine whether medication could be helpful in treating depression. Or a physician may refer a patient for further evaluation of depression to a psychiatrist. Help your partner avoid the common trap of self-diagnosis and encourage consulting with professionals to monitor this serious condition.
Read up on depression so you can understand it better.
Get outside together. Sunshine and fresh air are invigorating.
Help prepare healthy meals. Nutrition plays a key part in supporting thyroid health.
Another manifestation of a low-functioning thyroid is brain fog. Brain fog is often the first symptom of hypothyroidism that people notice, even if they don’t suspect their thyroid as being part of the problem. Brain fog can make it hard to remember information necessary for work or for managing a home. Brain fog can make it difficult to concentrate, sometimes translating into important tasks that don’t get accomplished. Some people feel like they are walking around in a haze that makes thinking clearly difficult.
Brain fog can look like spaciness or ditziness—someone forgetting where their keys are, forgetting to pick up items at the store or things that they have on their schedule. Feeling stressed about having brain fog only makes the symptoms worse, so try to roll with it.
Buy an extra stack of sticky notes to keep on hand for visual reminders.
Discuss daily schedules so you both can stay on track.
Try deep breathing exercises together. Pulling more oxygen into the body can push some of the fog away.
It’s understandable for both you and your partner feel frustrated with the impact of hypothyroidism. You may have a new normal, but it doesn’t mean hypothyroidism has to dictate your lives. Acknowledging the difficulties that come with the illness, and being prepared to face them together, can go a long way towards managing hypothyroidism.
Find inspiration for a healthy way to support your thyroid