CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) For Hypothyroidism

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When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism last year, I first felt relieved. I finally had a concrete reason for the way that I was feeling and I could start working on getting well again, now I knew what the problem was.

But, I also struggled with accepting the diagnosis.

I’m an impatient person and I’m a perfectionist. I always have been!

Rachel wearing her Mighty T-Shirt

Because of this, when I didn’t get better straight after starting on thyroid medication, I felt I was a failure.

I struggled to accept my new condition and the thought of living this way (at the time, a very poor quality of life) for the rest of my life was devastating. This pushed me in to a deep depression and my anxiety disorder, that I’d had since seventeen and struggled with before my diagnosed thyroid problems, also flared up.

I was also non-optimally treated for my hypothyroidism at this time, kept on Levothyroxine, which did not work for me, and left my thyroid levels low. Doctors kept on encouraging me to take antidepressants and suggested counselling. I’d had counselling before and it didn’t really work. When I explained this, they suggested trying CBT. I said of course, I’ll try anything to help me feel better. 

What is CBT?

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help to address unhealthy thought patterns. It is most commonly used to help treat anxiety and depression. It doesn’t ‘remove’ your problem (in my case, it didn’t fix the physical issue of low thyroid hormone levels, but it can help to deal and process them in a more positive way.

It looks at your feelings, thoughts and how you may behave due to them. I.e. negatively, that can keep you in an unhealthy cycle that doesn’t allow you to move forward with your life. CBT aims to break this cycle, by teaching you how to change negative thinking patterns and behaviours that in turn can improve how you feel mentally.

Unlike counselling or some other forms of therapy, CBT works on current problems in your life instead of talking about past ones, and addresses them with practical ways of approaching the issues.

So, it’s about changing the way you look at things.

How Did CBT Help Me?

I looked at my diagnosis of having hypothyroidism as a weakness initially and I struggled to accept this new part of my life which was always going to be there. As someone who hates change, it devastated me; the thought of having to deal with something so daunting, which also took over my life… I just couldn’t handle it. Mentally I struggled a lot.

I found CBT helped me see my hypothyroidism as just another part of me and my life, that I wasn’t to blame for, really, and the most productive thing to do going forward was to work on just accepting it and managing it as best as possible.

It taught me that I don’t have to be ‘perfect’ all the time and I’m allowed days where my condition makes me very ill or I’m struggling. I’m allowed to put my health first and that’s not a bad thing. I’m allowed to be imperfect.

In regards to my anxiety disorder and depression, it focused on my deep rooted fears and self image (such as my disordered eating behaviours) and aimed to challenge my beliefs which were having a detrimental effect on me and my life, causing the excess anxiety and deep depression I was in. I am a perfectionist and this idea I had of always having to live to up everyone else’s standards was unrealistic and inevitably causing me to feel as if I was failing all the time, now that I had a health condition which could affect what I did day to day.

This anxiety and depression took over a lot of my life in conjunction with my hypothyroid symptoms.

CBT helped me to view my diagnosis of hypothyroidism in a completely different way. It helped me to accept it and then look at it in a proactive way. I had six one-hour sessions, over six weeks, but my therapist did say that it could be lengthened in certain circumstances. However, most people find six sessions to be enough.

I was given homework, such as a thought record sheet to fill in, in order to track what kind of thoughts were getting me stressed, anxious or particularly depressed and upset, so we could work out what my deep rooted fears were, and challenge them to fix the problems in the way I was thinking.

You Have To Want it To Work

In order for CBT to help me, I had to want to get better and I had to go in with the motivation for this to work and give it all my effort. This isn’t easy when depression demotivates you, but it’s worth a try.

It’s after I finished my six weeks of CBT that I set up this blog, my Facebook support group, started a new thyroid medication (NDT) and found a better doctor. It gave me the drive to decide that I needed to do to be more proactive in my own health, in order to get my hypothyroidism under control.

Other Options 

THe following link Has BEEN SPONSORED BY BetterHelp

As well as asking your doctor for a referral to a therapist, or paying to see one yourself, you can also seek an online therapist, psychiatrist or counsellor’s help. One option is through BetterHelp: https://www.betterhelp.com/online-counseling/

It is worth noting, however, that not having optimal thyroid hormone levels may well impact how well CBT or other therapies work for you, since they’re known to affect out mood and mental state if too low. Please check out that link if you’re struggling with your mental health at all.

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.

If you found this article beneficial, please take a moment to share it so we can help others get better with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, whilst also raising awareness. "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate."

Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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