Fibromyalgia (FM) Patients Should Be Evaluated for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Researchers Say

When people think of fibromyalgia, they often think of older individuals as being the ones who suffer with this. However, fibromyalgia is one of those illnesses that can affect men, women and children. While it may be found more commonly in women, anyone can be affected by this regardless of age, race, and ethnicity. The causes of fibromyalgia are debated daily among medical professionals. This is the illness that has been studied and researched more frequently in the last few years due to overwhelming new patients who are diagnosed with this.

The causes of Fibromyalgia

There are several causes of fibromyalgia that have been pinpointed by the numerous studies that have been performed. These causes range from having a major infection at some point in their lives, to injuries that have occurred. However, more recently, studies are showcasing that emotional trauma could lead to developing fibromyalgia. Specifically speaking, PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder is being linked to those who are developing this illness.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder that developed in some people who have who have experienced an event that was shocking, scary or dangerous. This is being seen in many military men and women who are faced with combat, in rape survivors, and others who have been through an emotionally tiring situation.

In a traumatic situation, the flight of fight response is activated in the person. For many people, they are able to get over this. However, in others, this flight or fight response stays activated in the body which can cause several different issues. For example, a person with PTSD may feel stress or scared in situations that are not really that dangerous. It is when this occurs that the person is diagnosed with PTSD.

How does fibromyalgia and PTSD connect??

Now that you understand what PTSD is and the symptoms that come with this, most people wonder how this is creating a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The main theory is that when a person who has this level of stress in their systems from their PTSD that their serotonin levels in the brain drop. This leads to a substance P increase that is seen in fibromyalgia patients. Those with PTSD may also find that they start to show signs of fibromyalgia on top of the PTSD symptoms that they experience.

These symptoms are

  • >>Feeling achy and tired all the time
  • >>they often report feeling as though they are living their life in a fog.
  • >>Memory issues
  • >>Having issues with sleeping
  • >>Stomach issues that lead to even more discomfort

Fibromyalgia (FM) Patients Should Be Evaluated for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Researchers Say

The link between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is of growing interest in psychosocial research. The mechanisms by which both disorders are interconnected are not well understood.

Traumatic events can result in a set of symptoms including intrusive and recurrent recollections, nightmares, avoidance of thoughts or activities associated with the traumatic event, and symptoms of increased arousal like hypervigilance and insomnia. These PTSD-like symptoms are commonly observed in persons with chronic pain syndromes. Little is known about how these two phenomena interact with one another.

According to a new study, women with chronic widespread pain and fibromyalgia are more likely to have PTSD compared with patients with two stomach conditions (dyspepsia and achalasia). The study also showed a connection between the severity of pain and the severity of PTSD among these patients.

However, few of the studies examined if these events were connected to posttraumatic stress disorder. To do so, researchers enrolled 154 women with chronic widespread pain or FM. In addition, 83 women with functional dyspepsia (a chronic condition of movement and sensation in the upper digestive tract) and 53 women with achalasia (condition in which the esophagus fails to press food down) were enrolled.

Researchers evaluated patients using a childhood trauma questionnaire and a PTSD self-rating inventory.

49% of chronic widespread pain and FM patients reported at least one childhood traumatic event, compared to 23.4% of achalasia patients and 39.7% of patients with functional dyspepsia.

The difference was only significant between achalasia and fibromyalgia.

However, a much larger difference existed, when researchers looked at scores in the PTSD questionnaire: 26% of chronic pain and fibromyalgia patients had posttraumatic stress disorder, compared with 12.2% of achalasia patients, and only 4.9% of those with functional dyspepsia.

This translated to a likelihood of PTSD in fibromyalgia of about 5 to 7 times that seen in other patient groups.

The severity of PTSD was higher among fibromyalgia patients, and was highest in those reporting childhood traumas, with more traumatic events linked to more extreme PTSD.

Posttraumatic stress disorder severity was also related to both qualitative and quantitative ratings of pain, so that FM patients with PTSD had more and worse pain than those without the condition.

These findings underscore the need to treat posttraumatic stress disorder among fibromyalgia patients, like treatment might also improve pain, and hence everyday functioning.

With such distinct and clear links between posttraumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia, it becomes hard to understand exactly what we can do to alleviate the symptoms of both.

The common ways to treat these are a bit different from each other, but there are still ways to treat both.

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