International Women’s Day and How Thyroid Disease is a Feminist Issue

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The 8th March marks International Women’s Day, commemorating the movement for women’s rights.

I’d also like to touch on the fact that Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s affects a lot more women than men (7-15 times more women), but sadly a lot of women, when they go to the doctor complaining of tiredness, depression, brain fog, memory problems, weight gain etc. are made to feel as if they are hypochondriacs. 

I myself and many other women have been made to feel as if we’re making it all up or are brushed off with “Well this is all normal for a woman your age”, “It’s all in your head”, “Just eat less and move more”, which is utterly wrong and disgusting.

Middle aged women are especially likely to be told that it’s all normal for someone their age, even, and then sent back out the door with nothing more. As someone who had symptoms since my teen years, I also experienced difficulties in getting diagnosed and being listened to, as doctor’s felt that I was too young to really be experiencing all the symptoms I said I was (muscle cramps, heavy fatigue, poor stamina, irregular periods, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, brittle nails, aches and pains). I was told that it was ‘all in my head’.

It wasn’t.

Research indicates that;

“physicians are more likely to interpret men’s symptoms as biological and women’s symptoms as psychosocial – that is, that women’s symptoms are a result of a mental, rather than physical, illness”

Which doesn’t surprise me. But it is still obviously wrong nonetheless.

I’ve even noticed better results with a doctor or thyroid specialist, when I take my male other half with me to the appointment. I find that they’re more receptive to what he has to say about me (even if he’s saying the exact same things I raised with the doctor alone, in a previous appointment), and the doctor has even spoken to him directly about me, as if I wasn’t sat in that very room!

Many women are shrugged off, made to feel as if they’re making their symptoms up and then are dismissed for years, before eventually being diagnosed, when they were actually living with a real health condition all along. It’s not just existing in their heads, it’s absolutely real. 

It is not ‘normal’, ‘expected’ or has to be ‘put up with’. Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism (also known as an underactive thyroid) wreak havoc on many peoples’ lives. And mainly women. Of the 750 million people living with thyroid disease across the world, as many as 60% are undiagnosed. Are they undiagnosed because doctors are dismissing their concerns and not thinking to run the appropriate tests? Especially with women who they decide to prescribe antidepressants for instead?

The fact that the symptoms are so varying (there are over 300 known symptoms of Hypothyroidism), means it can make it difficult to catch and diagnose the condition, but as so many people have it, it’s obvious that we need more regular screening (of women especially) to get those living with it treated. We also need more people (especially doctors) to be more aware of thyroid disease’s existence and manifestation, especially in females. Doctors need to be listening to their female patients more closely and not dismiss their concerns just because they’re a woman, and obviously an hypochondriac who’s also probably depressed and loves the attention (note the sarcasm in my voice).

Failure to pick up on Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s early enough can lead to patients experiencing miscarriages, mental health issues, weight gain, loss of ability to do as much as they used to (hobbies, social life, work life, exercising all affected) and even cognitive effects, such as brain fog and experiencing memory issues. Many women are losing years of their life unnecessarily.

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

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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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Rachel Hill, Thyroid Patient Advocate, blogger and author, has Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites and has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, Thyroid Refresh and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and also contributed the foreword to Emily Kyle’s The 30-Minute Thyroid Cookbook.

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