The Fibromyalgia Symptom Triad – Emotional Symptoms

There has been an ongoing debate within the fibromyalgia community amongst many leading “experts” about the emotional toll that fibromyalgia takes on a patient’s emotional well being.

Reminiscent of the debate on what came first, the chicken or the egg, the debate goes along the lines of “Does fibromyalgia cause emotional turmoil or does emotional turmoil cause fibromyalgia?”

The answer is not so simple.  There is no doubt that fibromyalgia takes an emotional toll not only on the sufferer but on their friends and loved ones as well.  Living with a debilitating condition such as fibromyalgia and having to fight for not just a treatment but a diagnosis and understanding can be hard on anyone but it’s certainly harder when living with chronic pain.

There is also little doubt that emotional well being is tied directly to fibromyalgia.  While the cause of this remains a mystery, research has shown that a poor emotional state can make fibro pain worse.

Think of it like this, when you feel down or depressed on a single day, doesn’t that tend to make your day a lot worse?  If you wake in the morning to a house full of stress, and you go to work doesn’t that make your entire day stressful?

Humans are emotional creatures, and our emotions affect us in ways that we do not fully understand.  Fibromyalgia suffers understand that their emotional well being is often tied to how they feel on any given day or any given situation.

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Mood changes
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Depression

Don’t let it fool you, some people will read that and say “only four little symptoms?  Big Deal!”  Well it is a big deal – Those four can produce havoc in one’s life.  When you include these symptoms with any of the chemical or structural symptoms, this can make for a downright difficult time!

Online, you can find thousands of articles and pages dedicated to depression and anxiety.  Sometimes a short term use of antidepressants can be beneficial for people.  Short term usage of some of these to help get through the days can be helpful in some extreme situations.  The key phrase here is “short term” because the main problems associated with medications do not arise until you go into long term usage.

The problem with long term usage is that the side effects are not fully understood since most of these drugs have been around for less than fifty years. Not enough time has passed for us to completely understand what the long term ramifications are of these drugs are.

However with all of this said, my patients have informed me that they experience unsettling mood changes, suicidal behavior, and many times these drugs make their fibro fog even worse. Some drugs cloud their memory and causes losses in periods of time in their recollections.

With most of these drugs, you will find that quitting cold turkey is ill advised and can cause more damage to your system as your brain, nervous system, and other systems in your body go through massive withdrawal from these potent chemicals. This will lead to severe discomfort and forcing your entire body to shut down, resulting in changes to your brain chemistry and the chemistry in your central nervous system – which we know is two of the main systems in the body that cause your fibro symptoms to be worse.

If you are experiencing emotional symptoms, it can feel overwhelming and even next to impossible to start your way to better health.

It starts to feel as though you cannot overcome the obstacles in your way,

This forms a very dangerous and vicious cycle that many of my patients find themselves in.

The first step to overcome this is to realize that not only are you not alone in this struggle, and more importantly, you have what it takes within you to overcome it.  It’s time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and start working yourself up toward better health and brighter future!

You’ll find that once you start improving your metabolism with some light exercises and changing your body chemistry with better diet that your other symptoms will begin to disappear or become manageable, and you’ll start feeling better mentally.

The fact is that you can do anything to raise your heart rate. Even if it’s sitting on the couch and lifting your legs up and down, or moving your arms. Everybody with fibromyalgia experiences pain differently, and therefore must experience getting well differently. You know you should walk around the block, or walk a few miles a day but this may not be possible for you at the start. Just find out what you can do and starts from here.

One good way to start making yourself feel better is to cook a nice dinner.  Pick out good, healthy food (for recipes see here) and walk around the kitchen, cutting up ingredients. Believe it or not, cooking can feel quite rewarding. You made a delicious affordable home cooked meal that is good for you! Plus, you managed to get a workout in by running around the kitchen grabbing this and that.

That is my point.  Exercise doesn’t just mean going to the gym and doing jumping jacks.  It means that you just have to do something physical that makes you sweat a little bit.  I would never in my practice encourage a patient to walk or run a mile, do one hundred situps, or change their entire lifestyle in a week.  It is a slow process, and much like anything else, you begin to build a tolerance, and you will find after time you will be able to do more than you thought you could.

The time frame is dependent upon the individual person.  What could take a patient six months may take another three years. At times a certain movement routine can feel difficult to complete, especially with the busy lifestyles that we live today.

The crippling emotional effects of fibromyalgia can be quite damaging to your life.  It can feel as though your world is shrinking, and you can slowly begin losing friends and loved ones, making your depression even worse.

The daily stress of our lives can be quite overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have fibromyalgia but if you have fibromyalgia at times it can feel like complete Hell. I’ve had patients who have ended up getting divorced, their children and family stop talking to them.  They feel alone without any support.

I don’t need to tell you how important a support system is for fibromyalgia.  We know that emotional stress, depression, and anxiety make fibromyalgia much worse.  As with any disease or condition your emotional well-being plays a role in that.  In fact with fibromyalgia 3 out of every 10 people who are diagnosed have major depression at the same time. The mere stress and anxiety caused by the fibromyalgia often leads to social isolation and more anxiety.

This is also the most difficult to help people through. In fact, you know first hand that fibromyalgia and its emotional difficulties can be hard to get through.  You must remember though that you can push your way through it.  You are not defined by your fibromyalgia and your misery, you are defined by yourself, who you are, what you are, and what you can be.

You must remember that just because you have fibromyalgia does not mean that fibromyalgia has to conquer you.  That you are more than your condition.

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Wanda H February 28, 2013

I found out about fibromyalgia about 6 years ago.
I can’t believe how much that it does to you.
I never thought that this stuff could be this bad.
I would like to go to someone who knows about the
Fibromyalgia. I have anxiety and i can’t concentrat.
Thank You and i hope that you could give me some
pointers.
Thanks, Wanda H

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