Fibromyalgia is associated with a higher risk of stress, anxiety and depression. Aside from being a physical disease – patients with fibromyalgia live with chronic pain – fibromyalgia is also very much a psychological disease and is closely associated with stress and depression. Although much research has revealed the association between the conditions, the exact link has never been fully understood.
What is known is that stress, anxiety and depression can lead to negative health outcomes for those living with fibromyalgia. Understanding these effects can determine treatment options.
Fibromyalgia and depression
Depression is a common condition among those with fibromyalgia. Statistics reveal that fibromyalgia patients have a 30 percent higher risk of developing depression and a 74 percent lifetime risk of depression.
Depression and fibromyalgia may coexist due to many similarities between the two conditions like similar psychological triggers, such as stress, and they share similar symptoms.
Additionally, depression and fibromyalgia have been seen to share similar personality traits. For example, people with depression exhibit high harm avoidance and low self-directedness, which is similar to those with fibromyalgia. Neuroticism, too, is seen in both patients.
Other factors that can link fibromyalgia with depression are pain and fatigue – common symptoms of fibromyalgia – which can contribute to anxiety and social isolation – factors of depression. Deep muscle pain can reduce physical activity, which furthers withdrawal from others and from activities and increases anxiety, creating a vicious cycle leading up to depression.
Lastly, both depression and fibromyalgia can interfere with day-to-day life, which is another similarity the two conditions share.
Stress and the increased risk of depression in fibromyalgia
Stress in fibromyalgia can be both physical and psychological. Stressors can increase the severity of fibromyalgia and as stress continues, fibromyalgia worsens, which again adds to more stress – once again creating a vicious cycle.
There are many different stressors involved in fibromyalgia, including trauma, infectious diseases, psychological stressors and workplace and relationship stresses. All of these stressors are quite common in fibromyalgia; the pain and fatigue can increase the person’s risk of traumatic accidents as well as make them more prone to infectious diseases.
One study found that patients with fibromyalgia report life events to be more stressful compared to those living without the condition. This revealed that those with fibromyalgia perceive even mild stress more stressful, which can increase the effects that stress has on their health.
Lastly, simply living in constant pain and being chronically fatigued can be stressful as patients may feel that they can’t do many of the things they once did, which leads to added stress. This accumulation of stress can also turn into depression.
Fibromyalgia and anxiety
Anxiety disorders are seen as a common secondary condition in fibromyalgia patients, with prevalence between 13 and 71 percent. Anxiety in fibromyalgia can be particularly harmful as it increases pain sensitivity and perception. Furthermore, anxiety disorders can increase the risk of depression as well.
Anxiety doesn’t just affect fibromyalgia, it can also affect a patient’s relationships, work habits, level of activity, and motor and cognitive abilities.
Anxiety is characterized by chronic feelings of worry, nervousness, tension, concern and increased activity in the nervous system.
Causes of anxiety in fibromyalgia patients revolve around the fact that there is no cure for fibromyalgia, that they are in pain, and that the illness often leaves patients feeling quite insecure.
Treating anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia
It’s important to treat anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia because it can lead to many severe negative health outcomes. Not only do these psychological conditions worsen fibromyalgia, but they can impact daily life as well.
Here are some tips you can use to help better treat anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as massage and meditation – not only can these improve anxiety and depression, but they can also aid with symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- Biofeedback can teach you to be in-tune with your body and learn how to control physiological processes.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy can aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression and help you improve other areas of your life, such as your sleeping habits.
- Exercise – although pain may prevent vigorous exercise, gentle exercise is effective in reducing pain along with uplifting mood.
- Partake in a healthy lifestyle by eating well, not smoking and getting adequate sleep.
- Speak to your doctor about taking antidepressants.
- Joint a support group or try counseling.
These tips can help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression and offer relief from fibromyalgia, which can contribute to psychological disorders. Speak with your doctor in order to determine which mode of treatment is best for your needs.
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