Thyroid Patients Explain What Thyroid Fatigue Really Feels Like

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I asked fans of my Facebook page how they would describe thyroid fatigue to other people, because, let’s face it, it’s not just ‘tiredness’ or being ‘sleepy’. It’s so much more than that.

When people say “Oh yeah, I’m tired too!” or “You just need an early night!” it’s really infuriating. It’s not a matter of having a bad nights sleep or a late night. Our body is literally deprived of hormones meant to keep us functioning properly. We’re exhausted!

So, I asked: “It’s hard to describe to those who don’t experience it, but if you could put it in to words, what would it be?”

Here’s what you said:

“It’s a monumental effort just to stay upright and put one foot in front of the other, and as for motivation, its so much easier to stay unmotivated. It takes grit and determination just to get through the day, its so unfair.” – Lynne

“It’s like coming round from general anaesthetic.” – Anon

“It’s my stomach sinking when I realise it is 3pm, I’m exhausted and have still got 4.5 hours of “mum duty” to do before husband gets home.” – Harriet

“It’s waking up more tired than when you went to bed the night before.” – Anon

“It is as if you are surrounded by a fog and stuck in a bubble. I feel like I should be able to shake my head really hard and, cartoon style, this fog will be shaken away and I’ll feel ‘normal’. I’ve had to change how I work to fit around the fact that, the that later in the day it gets, the more useless I become. It’s as if you’ve finished vigorous physical activity every minute of the day but you’re never able to recover. Basically it sucks!” – Emma

“The fatigue is like all the possible different pains that feel like a bee has stung you or someone just stabbed you with a needle. It is so strange how the pain comes and goes. It is making me crazier than I already am, plus staying so tired all the time is really a pain.” – Carolyn

“It’s like having jet lag, extremely draining leaving you very lethargic, your whole body is exhausted, you want to move, but you just can’t.” – Janice

“It’s having no motivation. It’s a struggle to force yourself to do things that you used to enjoy. It’s feeling like you’re going to crumble into a pile if you don’t sit down.” – Linda

“It’s definitely like being drugged. You have the urge to do things but you just can’t. It’s very similar to depression; It’s hard to motivate yourself to move or do anything. You choose the easier way even if you want to go the harder way. It just sucks.” – Theresa

“Extremely debilitating exhaustion, it’s past the stage of being tired. No amount of sleep rectifies it. A lack of energy to stand up in the shower even and when you do a need to sit down again! It is so awful it is painful, muscles scream at me and my bones hurt. This is not just being tired!” – Caroline

“Before my treatment started to work, the tiredness I felt was indescribable, exhaustion to the point of being unable to function at all, a trip to the supermarket wiped me out, it’s worse than just feeling tired, it’s like your body has just completely packed in. Even now I have to make sure I keep any physical activity to early in the day as by late afternoon the tiredness creeps in, but think the worst part is being so tired but then completely unable to sleep.” – Gwen

“Like someone has sucked all the joy, my actual soul out and I had no feeling or energy of any kind left. ( I no longer feel that way fortunately, my thyroid is managed well).” – April

“It gets me so that I would just curl up where I stood, even walking along, just anywhere!” – Pauline

“It feels like the air is sludge, every movement is a Herculean effort. Your thoughts are world class sprinters with your tongue a weekend jogger trying to catch up as they disappear in the distance. The pain is a big, hollow, indescribable thing that owns you.” – Teddy

“I’m reaching the point now where I’m going to have to reduce my hours at work as I can’t work full time and look after my own home and I don’t even have kids. I have massive respect for all parents with hypothyroidism, I seriously don’t know how you do it!” – Liz

“It’s like swimming through honey and someone filled your head and eyelids with lead. Every movement is such an effort and you really feel you need to just lay down and sleep wherever you can.” – Kathleen

“It’s more than being tired. It’s not ‘you had a late night and are a bit groggy today’ tired, I mean absolutely exhausted. Like you could drop sleep with every blink you take. When getting up the stairs is such a horrendous task, that you have to plan about half an hour before you want to go upstairs, to physically prepare yourself for it. And even then, you need someone to help you. I guarantee, if you do not have a chronic illness, you will not know what this feels like.” – Myself

“I’d say it’s beyond exhaustion. It’s spending every moment consciously having to keep my eyes open, using any energy I do have to stay awake from a major lack of energy. It’s waking up more tired than when you go to bed. It’s almost painful.” – Myself

Add your own in the comments section below. 

Read other blogs in the ‘Thyroid Patients Explain’ format here

Related post: How Thyroid Tired is Different to Normal Tired 

If you are on thyroid medication and still having these kinds of issues with fatigue and other symptoms, you are likely not adequately treated, or have other problems you need to address. A properly treated thyroid condition should have no or very few symptoms. Of course, other illness, conditions and deficiencies can cause problems too, so explore them all if possible.

You, Me and Hypothyroidism Book Cover

You, Me and Hypothyroidism: When Someone You Love Has Hypothyroidism, is a book for those who know someone with hypothyroidism. Learn what reduced energy levels look like for your spouse, friend or family member with hypothyroidism, and how you can help so they improve their quality of life.

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

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35 thoughts on “Thyroid Patients Explain What Thyroid Fatigue Really Feels Like

  1. It’s dragging yourself out of bed at maybe 9.30 or 10 am, having a shower, and then needing a lie down to recover, whole wondering why you’re so lazy and useless. It’s sitting down to do some work and not being able to focus on anything, it all feels so pointless, and blaming yourself for having no motivation. It’s like arms and legs made of lead – it’s too tiring to sit up at the table and lift your arms to put food in your mouth. It’s being too tired to get yourself to bed at night and then frequently lying there not sleeping. But even if you do sleep, feeling like you didn’t, always waking up more tired than when you went to bed. And then run the whole thing all over again the next day. I remember it well. But finally 4 months ago my doctor let me try some different meds and since we got the dose adjusted I’m like a whole new person! Don’t give up.

  2. Having hypothyroidism is like living under water and constantly clawing your way to the top just to catch a breath… the struggle is real!

  3. For me, Hypothyroidism is like when you’re being put under anaesthesia and fighting for your life to gather that bit of energy to stay with the world. You know it’s inevitable that the overwhelming fatigue is going to win and you’ll “crash” any second. The first time I experienced it, I fell asleep mid sip of my drink and split it everywhere. I just thought I had been working too hard. It’s like living in a dream world where reality and make believe is always such a fine line. It’s very difficult to explain the feeling to somebody that hasn’t experienced it. So surreal.

  4. Thanks for this wonderful article and also the comments of everybody. Lately I feel tired and fatigued. Some days I sleep 9 hours and still feel tired.

  5. Thank you so much for this! I stumbled upon your site after seeing the quotes by thyroid patients. I’ve been on treatment for 15 years, but now feel extreme fatigue and even some cognitive fog. I went to my GP who wanted me to have a sleep study and a GI, but didn’t really seem to hear why I’m scared. It’s even harder to explain to friends and family that you’re not lazy, that your fatigued all the time. I’m just starting a battle and hope to find better care and support.

  6. I have 3 nodules on my thyroid, 2 of which are benign and one indeterminate. Hypothyroid runs in every member of my mum’s side of the family and yet for years I’ve had the same – you’re tired because you’re overweight (was a crossfitter), diet – did Slimming Word for 3 months only lost 2 pounds (and was walking 3 miles a day) – Doctor just kept saying your bloods are normal.
    Finally got to the point where I was in so much pain and such debilitating symptoms I went back to doc and this time my bloods do show hypothyroid. I have a phone appointment with her to discuss (had to wait 3 weeks for that) and am currently managing as best I can with not walking 3 miles for work and taking a nap in my car at lunchtime. I just want to feel like me again – sick of people judging that because I’m overweight, I’m lazy or gluttenous as that’s completely not the case .

  7. Thank you to all sharing! Most people don’t understand. I don’t usually tell people. Many get feeling better eventually from thyroid problems I have heard. I was so healthy all of my life before I got sick. For 20 years I have felt the same every second since I got sick with Grave’s Disease. Levels have been high and low but always a groggy fog flu like feeling like I have been run over by a truck every morning. My Endocrinologist finally said I am one that will not feel better. Waking up after a full night sleep I feel like I haven’t slept. Once I make myself get up and move around I feel very slightly better for a little while. Memory problems are getting worse. I have tried several things to feel better even a little. I do try to find things to be greatful for. I have found some good friends that are kind, have patience with me, and wait for me. Others have quit doing things with me when they find out I am sick. Hang in there! You are certainly not alone!!!

  8. I’m really keen on walking, about 3 -5 miles once a week. The exhaustion kicks in about a mile in. It’s like a car suddenly running out of petrol. You have to sit down, lie down, and trying to fight through means you have to slow down almost to the point of taking steps inch by inch.

  9. 5 years on I got diagnosed with hypothyroid iam 6ft 3 and 20st guy and was put on levothyroxine and have never felt well or much better now on t3 as well and metformin but still have a lot of anxiety and fatigue lately but still working full time but it like a living hell even with seeing an endocrinologist on numerous occasions.

    1. Tell your Dr. you want to try natural hormone therapy called NP thyroid. Levothyroxine never helped me . NP does.

  10. I have felt so exhausted I just wanted to curl up in a ball and fade away. Totally apathy about what is going on in the world around me, unable to find the joy in life. Thankfully I’m okay at the moment. Although I know I will experience it again!

  11. Sleep deprivation is a torture technique and some days are torture. that’s not an exaggeration. it’s heartbreaking not having the energy to enjoy life. it’s gut wrenching not having energy to play and laugh with your child or to visit a friend when you’re feeling so alone and isolated. Its debilitating and so painful in so many ways

  12. I was recently diagnosed (2 months ago, along with HS and PCOS) with hypothyroidism, the Dr didn’t specify what kind or why it happened (I think it’s related to a really bad rollover wreck that broke my neck). I’ve only seen this Dr twice, the first visit, I explained my symptoms and she completely disreguarded my hypothesis of needing my thyroid checked. I hadn’t lost more than 5lbs in the past 10 years, no matter what I did I gained weight. In the past 4 years I’ve put on more than 60lbs. Every Dr that I’ve been to said I was tired because I was so overweight, I needed to change my diet and exercise more. I tried walking every night, but only could make it through about 2 nights a week, and it left me completely drained for what felt like days afterwards. My memory left without me one day, and just never came back. I have several alarms set throughout the day so I don’t go spacey and forget to pick my kids up from school on time, make dinner, do laundry, showers, and even getting them to bed. It is a daily struggle to get everything done that needs to be done to keep my household running. I feel so overwhelmed by simple tasks like doing the dishes or just sweeping and mopping the floor. I feel so weighed down. It’s crushing sometimes. It makes me feel like I’m lazy and useless.

  13. I stumbled on this post and I’m so glad I did! I am on medication now so the Initial hell that came with my thyroid just up and saying “bye hon. I’m tired and you’re about to be exhausted beyond your comprehension. Hope you get it figured out. For now, I hibernate .”
    The exhaustion….pain in my body was horrible. I went from dancing, working out, being outgoing to barely being able to get out of bed without pain. Id sleep for hours and still wake up like I’d taken pain pills…foggy can’t even describe it. I wanted FOGGY! I’d just have blankness and try to figure out how to get home sometimes. The depression , the anxiety , the acne, the bloat, the weight gain…the tears and omg long periods. It was truamatizing and added exhaustion just trying to deal with that on top. I was a wreck! Now that I’m medicated pretty well, I still can have days where I just need to rest more. I can have my “dumb” moments but its manageable with meds and lifestyle changes.

    1. Hi Jessica, this is how I am these days too. getting my thyroid levels optimal with the correct medication was crucial, as were lifestyle changes. I’m glad you only get bad thyroid days every so often now.

  14. It’s waking up in the morning and before you get your feet on the floor your counting the hours on your fingers before you will be able to get back to bed . The rest of the day is a chore that has to be endured.Once diagnosed and medicated it does get easier but I worked round it by doing split shifts so I could have an afternoon nap. Doing lunch with colleagues was always refused because I couldn’t go back out to work and concentrate without my afternoon sleep .I am now fortunate enough that I could go part time .

      1. Hello Rachel,
        I know you are a very busy lady but wondered if you could offer any advice.
        I have been unwell for 30 plus years with m.e./fibro but display so many hypo symptoms and had my thyroid checked many times privately. Only once did I show positive antibodies with low /normal T4 and T3 . Although they now show a few they are not high enough to show positive , could it still be possible to have Hashimotos ? Thank you.

  15. The comparison that came to me the other day: it’s like when the remote control needs new batteries; if you jab buttons enough you get some results but you know eventually no matter how hard you press everything will stop working.

  16. I had to go down the route of self medication as my GP said my thyroid results were “normal” (despite elevated antibodies and very low T3/T4) and suggested depression – a very common story. Most of the time I’m functional but on bad days (like today) it feels like someone has given me extra weights to wear on every limb so that all movement is a constant effort and exhausting and it feels like I’m coming down with a bad case of the ‘flu. I’m constantly fighting to keep coherent thoughts in my head for longer than 5 seconds and I have to set alarms on my phone for the simplest of things otherwise I would totally forget to do them.

    1. Hi Sue, I had to go down the self sourcing of thyroid medication too. My GP was trying to pin everything, even my physical symptoms, on depression, which was more than frustrating. I had a flare up day yesterday and I described it as just that – as each limb is being pulled down by some invisible weight.

  17. I haven’t been diagnosed yet, but my GP has referred me to an endo doc. As much as I hate going to the doctor, I’m very excited about this appointment. For 9 years I’ve been told I’m tired because I’m a mom. For the past 4 months, I have progressively declined in health. I can no longer run a mile without needing a walk break (I’m an ultrarunner). I can hardly lift today half of what I lifted 4 months ago. I’m done for the day after a 5 mile walk. I’m putting on weight despite cutting calories when I wasn’t already overeating. My periods are heavy and every two weeks and the tiredness is affecting my work. In addition, I have the brain fog, hair falling out, ankle swelling as soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning. I could go on, but it seems you all know exactly what I’m going through. Sunday, it took all efforts to even walk down the hallway, I was so exhausted. This is hard to have my kids see. Both of my sisters have RA and my mom was a type 1 Diabetic, aunts on both sides have underactive thyroids so autoimmune disorders seem to run in the family. I hope I’m not once again dismissed when I go in to the doc.

    1. Hi Lori. I’m so so sorry to hear how much Hypothyroidism has affected you. Are you on any medication yet? I relate a lot to what you’ve said and experiences the same things before I was optimally medicated. Please keep faith that you will get back to good health once more. Thyroid Hugs x

  18. Wow!??? I thought I was only one who had these feelings!! OMG!?? I agree with all of you!!I feel so very exhausted. Just siting to have coffee. Just sweeping my floor.I have to rest every few min. My kids say wow, your so lazy, mom. I try to explain.

  19. After being seen by 2 health care providers who both dismissed my constant fatigue and exhaustion, after them prescribing multivitamins and sending me home with a piece of paper on “proper sleep hygiene”, after having to insist that they palpate my throat because one side is CLEARLY swollen, after a year of all that, I finally have a diagnosis.

    I was so happy when my third doctor finally told me what was wrong. It validates all the horrible exhaustion I’ve felt for years. I feel like I need a nap just from waking up to silence my alarm clock in the morning. I need a nap for living. My house is usually a mess because I never have the motivation or energy to do anything.

    I miss waking up feeling excited and ready for the day. Having energy throughout the day and even *gasp* meet friends for dinner after work or go hiking on the weekends.

    I can’t wait to start my treatment and feel better.

    1. I’m glad to hear you finally have a diagnosis Joanna, and I’m sorry to hear you were dismissed for so very long. It’s crucial to be validated and know that you’re not alone or imagining it! I hope you’re feeling better soon.

  20. Hypothyroidism feels like Ive taken about 4 Benadryls and I’m fighting to stay awake. I’m so forgetful it scares me.

  21. It feels like I just pulled 3 all nighters, went a week without eating, and ran a full marathon. It’s a combination of physical and mental exhaustion without having done anything. You have no motivation to do anything, not because you are lazy, but because you’re beyond exhausted, and no amount of sleep makes it better.
    23 and hypothyroid!

  22. When I have a flare up it’s like the death eaters from Harry Potter have sucked the life from me. I feel like a shell rather than a person and simply getting through the day feels like a marathon effort. I survive on sugar and caffeine to try to keep myself going, just desperate to collapse on the sofa and stop having to think, walk, talk. It’s beyond tired, it’s like constantly swimming against a strong tide and trying desperately not to drown.

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