Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by the presence of chronic generalized musculoskeletal pain. Besides pain, other symptoms are associated, such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, paresthesia in the extremities, a feeling of swelling in the hands or morning stiffness.
At present there is no therapy / intervention to cure fibromyalgia, with existing treatments focusing exclusively on alleviating or cushioning the impact of different symptoms, such as pain, sleep problems. or emotional discomfort.
It has been observed, with regard to psychopathology, that the prevalence of depression is higher in the group of fibromyalgia patients than in the rest of the patients. So, in this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look at this relationship.
What comes before, fibromyalgia or depression?
There are lines of research that describe a possible relationship between pain and certain personality variables, presenting evidence to support the theory that there is an important relationship between certain personality traits and chronic pain.
On the other hand, a high incidence of depressed mood is also observed in patients with pain, assuming that pain usually originates in mood.
Among the pain-related disorders, we will focus on fibromyalgia. A rheumatologic syndrome characterized by generalized pain, considered chronic and the main symptom of which is central sensitization which manifests as diffuse pain affecting the whole body.
Among the causes of this syndrome have been proposed, among others, emotional factors. Indeed, we recognize the involvement of emotional variables, such as anxiety or depression, finding that 30% of patients with fibromyalgia present with depression at the time of consultation and that 60% suffer from it at some point in their history. clinical. The impact of these emotional disturbances, however, is not clear either in the etiology or in the maintenance of fibromyalgia.
What does the research say about the relationship between fibromyalgia and depression?
In 2004, research was carried out at the University of the Balearic Islands, the objective of which was to corroborate the relationship between fibromyalgia and depression. The authors sought to verify whether patients with fibromyalgia had a specific profile in the manifestation of this mood disorder.
Regarding depression, it has been observed that there are no significant differences between patients with fibromyalgia and healthy patients. This could be a sign that depression may precede or accompany fibromyalgia, although it is not a factor involved in the etiology (cause) of the syndrome.
What seems certain is that the existence of the relationship between fibromyalgia and depression is more a matter of comorbidities (the two disorders appear at the same time), or that depressed mood can result from having fibromyalgia. Indeed, depressed mood in fibromyalgia patients is thought to be the result of interference from pain and other symptoms in daily life.
What are the implications of this relationship for professional practice?
To implement prevention in depression, we can turn to various tools such as:
- Think about our way of life. The secret lies in integrating rewarding activities and improving social life. Considering the fact that these patients present specific difficulties, it would be necessary to choose activities according to their capacities.
- Identify how we think and try to change the thoughts that make us feel bad, replacing them with less harmful ones.
- Participate in workshops or therapeutic groups. Knowing other people who are going through the same thing as us helps us to feel understood and to acquire genuinely useful tools for our problem.
- Consulting a psychologist is always an option.
Therefore, the results obtained may have important implications for professional practice. If depression is not a cause, but a consequence of fibromyalgia, this could lead to the development of specific prevention programs – based on the tools we have described – for this population.