Emotional Rescue 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. Your inability to meet the needs of your children, spouse, 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. These are all normal reactions to the losses you suffer when fibromyalgia strikes. You are not alone, however.
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 that there is nothing wrong with them and their symptoms are all in their heads. “Just get the stress out of your life,” they say, “and you will be fine.” These people are wrong. Fibromyalgia is a real illness and its psychological impact should not be dismissed.
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 in hormones can lead to low blood sugar or thyroid hormone which can also produce depressive symptoms. Adrenal disturbances can lead to feelings of panic and anxiety. Immune
system problems can cause people to feel fatigued or depressed.. Just the fact that you cannot get a good night’s sleep is enough to make anyone irritable, anxious or depressed.
Studies have shown that when people were deprived of just a few nights’ sleep, they developed many of the same symptoms fibromyalgia patients have, including emotional distress and problems with thinking, memory, and judgment. As any mother knows, children who are tired become irritable and tearful – why would adults be any different?
Researchers have found a problem in the stress response system in fibromyalgia patients. This system is composed of the adrenals, hypothalamus, pituitary and thyroid glands. Due to a breakdown in regulation in this system, people with fibromyalgia have trouble processing and handling stress – the stress response system may be unable to respond appropriately to even minor stressors. Not only is the disease causing enormous stress in your life, but it’s keeping you from handling it properly. The stress response system is in overload!
It has been clearly shown that stress aggravates fibromyalgia. Reducing stress and its impact may be easier said than done, however. All people (but 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 very 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 a magic pill to take their problems away. It is very important to understand that there is no magic pill in fibromyalgia. Research shows that a combined multidisciplinary treatment approach is the most effective way to achieve symptom relief. Although it may not be a cure, many patients find that making appropriate changes in their lives can reduce their symptoms, in some cases by as much as 90%!