Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

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


Social Work

First Advisor

Kari Fletcher


Social Work


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.

Included in

Social Work Commons