Mental Illness and Fibromyalgia: Is there a Connection?

When most people learn about fibromyalgia after they are first diagnosed, they are led to believe that this is a disorder in which pain and tiredness is the main culprits that they will have to deal with.

However, there are tons of other symptoms that go hand in hand with fibromyalgia.

There are 12 million people in the US that are affected by this chronic disorder. And the bulk majority of those who do have this disorder are also going to see some issues with their mental health, as there is a connection between fibromyalgia and mental illness.

Mental Illness Seen in Fibromyalgia Patients

While mental illness is seen with fibromyalgia patients, this does not mean that the person has gone crazy or that they cannot function in their day to day lives.

These mental illnesses are most commonly depression and anxiety. In fact:

  • 62% of patients with fibromyalgia with experience some sort of depression in their lifetime
  • 56% of these patients will experience anxiety

The connection between these two issues are just now being recognized. It was thought that they were independent of one another, but studies have shown us differently.

Why Depression and Anxiety are so Common?

Why are these mental issues so common in patients who have fibromyalgia? This is what many patients want to know as this is taking a huge toll on their lives.

They may find that they were once the life of the party, now all they want to do is to sit at home in the dark alone.

It can have a dramatic effect on their mental health and their entire lives. So, why does this happen?

There are several theories on why this happens:

Dealing with the day to day symptoms of fibroma can cause a person to feel “blue” or anxious.

The day to day symptoms of fibromyalgia, of feeling pain and tenderness, being unable to sleep or the like are all linked to the person feeling depression or even anxiety.

However, studies have shown that when a person is experiencing fibromyalgia the cortisol hormone in the body drops.

This is a stress hormone that helps a person to deal. In addition, the “feel-good” hormone that is found in the body starts to drop as well.

Therefore, the person when coupled with the chronic pain the person starts to feel depressed or anxious.

It is important to note that the person and anxiety a person feels with fibromyalgia is slightly different than if they were to have these issues on their own without this chronic disorder.

Doctors state that the adrenal function in fibromyalgia patients is underactive compared to normal healthier people who have a high cortisol level.

Disturbed sleep and fibromyalgia

1- Lack of sleep

Most fibromyalgia patients find that sleep is hard to come by on many days. The chronic pain can make it impossible to be still or to even get a restful sleep.

Due to the lack of sleep, a person can see a deeper depression or heightened anxiety.

It is interesting to note that many patients who do have the lack of sleep issue and who are diagnosed with depression/anxiety are often give another diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which further complicates treatment and learning to live their normal daily life.

2- The social stigma

Many people who are around those with fibromyalgia often think that the person is putting on a show, that their symptoms are not that bad, as they themselves have never had to deal with this chronic disorder.

It is this social stigma that could be making mental illness even harder for a person.

When people doubt that the person is in pain, this can lead to even more depression or anxiety, as the person themselves may start to doubt whether they have something wrong.

However, we know from studies that fibromyalgia patients are dealing with chronic pain that can be extremely painful.

Thus, it is important to not doubt anyone who states that they have this chronic disorder.

Mental Illness and Fibromyalgia

Treating the Mental Illness and Fibromyalgia

Treating the mental illness and fibromyalgia is going to be a process that requires working on both issues as the same time.

The mere thought of doing this for some people can lead to even more anxiety.

However, it is important to treat both in order to get the person back to the life that they once had. Here are a few ways in which treatment is given to patients:

1- Addressing the sleep issues:

1- Look at your “sleep hygiene”. The bedroom should be used for sleeping and intimacy, no work or play. This means creating a bedroom that is devoid of televisions, games and the like.

2- Maintain a sleep routine! Have a set time for going to bed and aim to have at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

3- Consider utilizing a calming tea to help you calm down, such as chamomile that many people have found success with.

2- Exercise!

1- Be sure to have a regular exercise routine that is moderate in terms of difficulty.

Many studies have found that those who do this are more likely to stop the pain and tenderness and it can have great effects on the mood of people.

2- Try to do exercises that are low impact such as walking, swimming or yoga.

3- You do not have to train hard, just do a bit every day to see the dramatic health benefits.

fibromyalgia diet guide

3- Eat properly!

1- The diet of many fibromyalgia patients is something that makes their pain, thus their mental issues, even worse. Be sure to eat a balanced diet!

2- Avoid greasy or fatty foods as this has been shown to make everything much harder for the patient.

A new idea for many patients is to start meditating. It has been shown to dramatically help many fibromyalgia patients who are dealing with the mental illness and pain.

Mindful meditation is one of the best forms to start practicing!

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