Anxiety in Fibromyalgia: What You Need to Know

Seeking professional in emotional distress is essential to promote well-being. In the case of people with fibromyalgia, this becomes even more necessary and beneficial!
Anxiety in Fibromyalgia: What You Need to Know

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 03 July, 2021

Last update: 03 July, 2021

Fibromyalgia is a difficult disease to pin down. And since it can often be so unpredictable, it isn’t uncommon for it to cause uneasiness and frustration. As a result, anxiety in fibromyalgia isn’t uncommon. But why? To answer this question, we must first remember a few things about this disease.

In their day-to-day lives, a person with fibromyalgia not only experiences physical symptoms such as generalized pain, a tingling sensation, headaches, digestive discomfort, dizziness, etc. They must also live with the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that arise as a result of it, and many of them are negative.

It isn’t easy to cope with the pain, fatigue, and general discomfort that persists despite rest and other measures that sufferers may take. Sometimes they cope better, but other times it’s more difficult. All of this, and the need to follow a tiresome routine, can make the person feel that they’ve lost control of their life.

Causes and triggers of anxiety

Anxiety in fibromyalgia is common
Living with chronic diseases isn’t easy, especially if they’re associated with pain such as fibromyalgia.

In general, sensory overload, sudden changes in routine, stressful situations, and other factors are often triggers for physical and psycho-emotional discomfort in people with fibromyalgia.

Although the influence of stress and the other factors mentioned is undeniable, there’s always the idea that anxiety could also have a link to genetics and brain chemistry.

Despite the numerous investigations carried out in this regard, it hasn’t yet been possible to identify a specific cause of anxiety. However, more and more information is becoming available, which makes it possible to refine the criteria for future research.

What the research says

In 2006, a study found that although low levels of vitamin D had been reported frequently in people with fibromyalgia, no association with anxiety and depression could be shown.

On the other hand, in a study published in 2013, researchers were able to observe the following in patients with fibromyalgia:

  • Chronic pain is often associated with comorbidities such as anxiety and depression. This can decrease the quality of life.
  • People who had high levels of anxiety and depression showed greater perception of pain, but not greater sensitivity.
  • Patients with higher levels of anxiety and depression were at higher risk of severe fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can manifest itself in different ways and to varying degrees. Sometimes through headaches, dizziness, and nausea, and sometimes in more disabling ways both physically and psychologically.

In addition, we must bear in mind that it isn’t always easy to pin down the symptoms, given how diffuse they can be. Especially the feelings of weakness or general malaise.

Nervousness, irritability, restlessness, negative (and even fatalistic) thoughts, and the feeling of being out of control in every way, coupled with the feeling of living “on the edge,” are common symptoms of anxiety in fibromyalgia.

    As in other health problems, anxiety in fibromyalgia doesn’t only appear as a symptom derived from the disease, but also as an overlapping or interdependent condition.

    But regardless of how we classify it, the truth is that anxiety can affect anyone’s quality of life, and even more so in those who suffer from fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases. For this reason, it’s necessary to address it and learn to manage it with professional help.

    The first step is usually to recognize anxiety, and then identify potential triggers. Finally, you have to learn to live a good life, even when the condition strikes.

    Experts from the American College of Rheumatology affirm that,with appropriate treatment, a healthy lifestyle, and good self-care, it’s possible to improve and lead a normal life. Because of this, they encourage patients to take an active role in their well-being.

    Diagnosis

    In order to address anxiety in fibromyalgia, the person needs to go to see a doctor and explain their discomfort in detail. Then, the treating physician may refer them to a psychologist or psychiatrist, as they should deem appropriate. Specialists are the ones who’ll be able to make the diagnosis.

    • Anxiety in fibromyalgia isn’t a diagnosis as such, and it’s necessary to consult a specialist.
    • We should bear in mind that there are patients who experience anxiety, but who don’t have a generalized anxiety or panic disorder. They could have bipolar disorder, for example.

    Treatment

    Anxiety in fibromyalgia requires treatment
    Seeing a mental health professional is important to overcome this part of the illness.

    The American College of Rheumatology highlights the great utility of cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia. This is because it “focuses on understanding how thoughts and behavior affect pain and other symptoms.”

    In a guide prepared by the experts of the Spanish Society of Rheumatology, entitled Learning to live with Fibromyalgia, they confirm that the combination of therapy with other relaxation tools and techniques contributes to well-being in a significant way.

    This includes improvements regarding anxiety, depression, pain, and the overall impact of the illness.

    For this reason, tools such as mindfulness, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques are recommended (such as tai chi and yoga – those that combine mind and body care).

    In short, to cope with anxiety in fibromyalgia and enjoy a good quality of life, it’s necessary to implement a strategy that allows comprehensive well-being.

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