Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations

Stories To Tell: Examining Experiences And Identities Of Individuals With Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Sandra Faulkner (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Amelia Carr (Other)

Third Advisor

John Dowd (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Hanasono (Committee Member)


The Centers for Disease Control argues that chronic diseases are on the rise (Butler & Modaff, 2016, p. 77; Goodman, Posner, Huang, Parekh, & Koh, 2013, p. 1). Moreover, the Mayo Clinic (2020) acknowledges there are more than 200,000 cases of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosed in the United States each year. Although, there has been much scholarship produced surrounding chronic illness as a whole (e.g. Badr, 2004; Badr & Acitelli, 2005, 2017; Badr, Acitelli, & Carmack Taylor, 2007; Butler & Modaff, 2016; Charmaz, 1990, 1991, 2002a, 2002b, 2006; Kuluski et al., 2014; Lyons & Meade, 1995), I build from this scholarship and narrow the scope by focusing specifically on Hashimoto’s patients. Therefore, this dissertation examined the stories from those living with the chronic invisible illness, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, because I believe they have stories to tell. Furthermore, this dissertation explored the experiences of Hashimoto’s patients and how they negotiated their identities throughout their diagnosis process to present day. I used Hecht’s (1993, 2014) Communication Theory of Identity (CTI) to frame this study, and I utilized qualitative feminist methodology to structure my project. I completed 30 in-depth interviews, and I invited participants to engage in electronic journal entries, if they so desired. Furthermore, I also incorporated my own vignettes throughout my analysis to ensure I was being reflexive in my work. From my analysis, there were five distinct themes that emerged from the data: before the story was a story, the story, after the story, into perspective, and tomorrow. Overall, the Hashimoto’s patients expressed the fact that they felt dismissed by their physicians, stigmatized in the workplace, and they shared their struggles within their relationships. These communication hardships are a problem that need to be further addressed. However, the patients did acknowledge their shifting identities from being well to chronically ill. Being diagnosed with a chronic invisible illness, like Hashimoto’s, is a process. I also argue for a process of discovery composed of three stages of identity negotiation: reconciliation of the mind and body, disclosure/non-disclosure of illness, and renegotiation of identity. This process, overlapped with Hecht’s (1993, 2013) Communication Theory of Identity, and is discussed throughout this project.