Thyroid Autoimmunity: Lived Experiences of Identity and Community through Word and Image


Social Work

Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Type of Paper/Work

Clinical research paper


Kari Fletcher


Internal and external environments influence holistic well-being as humans live in a constant cycle of self and other regulation. When this process is misguided and the body does not distinguish between what is self and what is not self, it begins to destroy its own bodies' healthy tissue. Autoimmune diseases affect 5-10% of the developed world's populations. When the 80+ autoimmune diseases are combined together, they are the one of the 10 leading causes of death of women under the age of 65. There is no known cure for any autoimmune disease and few studies have been conducted on the emotional and spiritual energetic underpinnings of autoimmune disease. The purpose of this research was to explore the connections between identity, community and thyroid autoimmunity, adding to the emerging and growing understanding of the current epidemic of autoimmunity. The original creation of an arts-based, phenomenological research methodology was presented. Eight participants provided their lived experience in photographs using modified PhotoVoice methods and written reflections through open ended questions in project notebooks. Data was analyzed and represented though narrative methods. Findings support further exploration of mental autoimmunity, the inability to emotionally and spiritually recognize and voice the story of self, and its role in a person’s susceptibility to physical autoimmune illness. Implications for clinical practice and future research recommendations were discussed.


autoimmune disease, autoimmunity, story, identity, PhotoVoice, thyroid, narrative theory

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.