Emotional Impact of Fibromyalgia

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Make No Mistake – Fibromyalgia Is A Real Illness

If you had been a healthy, active person and develop fibromyalgia, the symptoms can create havoc in your life.  Your inability to engage in activities you once enjoyed can cause you to become frustrated, angry, worried, or depressed.

These are all normal reactions to the losses you suffer when fibromyalgia strikes.  You are not alone.


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Your inability to meet the needs of your children, spouse and job or community may contribute to a sense of inadequacy and worthlessness.  Your friends may start to distance themselves.  You may lose your job or marriage, causing serious financial distress and emotional pain.

Many people with other illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes or other chronic illnesses have the same reactions.

Unfortunately, because fibro patients have no obvious physical or lab abnormalities, many have been told by their friends, family, or even their doctors there is nothing wrong with them and their symptoms are all in their heads.

“Just get stress out of your life, and you will be fine.” they say.

These people are wrong.

Fibromyalgia is a real illness and it’s psychological impact should not be dismissed.

Fibromyalgia can directly affect your emotions

Research has shown that up to 30% of fibromyalgia patients can experience psychological distress, including anxiety and/or depression.

Researchers believe that some of the emotional reactions could be due to the way fibromyalgia affects neurotransmitters and other regulatory systems in our bodies.

Disturbances also produce depressive symprtoms.  Adrenal disturbances can lead to feelings of panic and anxiety.  Immune system problems can cause people to be fatigued or depressed.

Just the fact you can’t get a good night’s sleep is enough to make anyone irritable, anxious or depressed.

Studies have shown that when people were deprived of a few nights of sleep they developed many of the same symptoms fibromyalgia patients have, including emotional distress and problems with thinking, memory, and judgement.

As any mother knows, children who are tired become irritable and tearful.

Why would adults be any different?

It has been found that stress aggravates fibromyalgia.  Reducing stress and it’s impact may be easier said than done, however.  All people (especially fibromyalgia patients) have stress in their lives which may be unavoidable.

Counseling and/or stress management can help you cope with fibromyalgia symptoms and improve your overall stress reactions.

But while counselors trained in treating fibromyalgia patients can be helpful, it requires work on your part as well.  Making changes in yourself may not be easy, and it is natural to resist it.

Some people are looking for the magic pill to take their problems away.  It is important to know that there is no magic pill in fibromyalgia.

Although it may not be a cure , many patients find that making appropriate changes in their lives can reduce their symptoms, in some case by 90%.

Fibromyalgia Not Only Affects You

How are you family members handling your illness?  They may have numerous feelings regarding the changes they see in you and may not be expressing their feeling for fear of causing you more worry, or they may not know what to say to you or how to express their thoughts.

If you have a spouse or a significant other, they will be worried about numerous things, such as: how long will this illness last, will your symptoms become worse over time; will your social life suffer, or how they will manage to take up the slack for household chores.

Intimate relations may become a thing of the past.  Many fibromyalgia sufferers are too tired or in too much pain to enjoy sexual relations.

Side effects of the medications may also lead to a reduced sexual desire.  Partners may be afraid to have intimate relations with you for fear of causing you more pain.

Couples Counseling can be helpful if you are having difficulties addressing these issues by yourselves.

Some fibromyalgia patients have reported that they have lost not only their health, but their partners and spouses due to illness.

This does not need to happen if steps are taken to communicate feelings to each other.

Illness affects children, too

Often, people believe that children do not need to know about problems in families.  They think children are too young to understand or do not want to tell them for fear of causing them unnecessary worry.

Children sometimes believe that they have caused the illness by some act that they may not even be aware of.  Their imaginations are very active.

If we do not ask them how they are thinking or feeling they may not tell us.

Give your children tasks to help you out.  A five year old can perform tasks such as emptying small trash cans.  Older children can handle more.  Younger ones can pick up their own toys.

Don’t be afraid to seek help.

Fibromyalgia patients are often reluctant to seek counseling to help them deal with the emotional impact of their illness.

Many are sick and tired of being told that it’s all in their head, and agreeing to see a counselor feels like an admission that this is true.

On the other hand, they may have some fear that the symptoms are really psychological.  Or they may feel that the counselor will blame them them for their symptoms.

There are some counselors out there that persist in the mistaken belief that fibromyalgia is purely an emotional illness.

Counseling/psychological/taming the brain

20-50% of patients will develop depression or anxiety, usualyy due to living with a chronic illness and losses associated with the illness.

What helps?

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy-time limited
  • Changes negative thought patterns to positive ones
  • Stress management-meditation, relaxation techniques, breathing
  • Biofeedback
  • Education
  • Balance, pace activities
  • Avoid “toxic” relationships
  • Don’t Overdo
  • Positive attitude/accept your limitations
  • Getting support from knowledgeable professionals
  • Journal, thoughts, feelings
  • Become aware of what your body is saying to you
  • Do at least on thing daily that you enjoy
  • Take care of flares when they start- have a plan in place
  • Avoid isolationism
  • Get help – it is not a sign of weakness
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