Can fibromyalgia cause personality changes?

Fibromyalgia is associated with a high prevalence of emotional and affective disorders (in particular, depression, anxiety, borderline personality, obsessive-compulsive personality, and post-traumatic stress disorder), and the main symptoms and comorbidities can be mutually reinforcing.

Numerous studies indicate that fibromyalgia patients experience psychological distress.

A number of instruments have been used to assess distress and related psychological domains, such as anxiety or depression, in fibromyalgia. In many cases, these same instruments have been used to study personality characteristics in fibromyalgia, with the subsequent blurring of cause and effect between personality and psychological distress. In addition, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can by themselves change personality characteristics prior to the illness.

These problems make it difficult to identify specific personality characteristics that could influence the fibromyalgia process. Despite this problem inherent to the methodologies used in the studies that make up this literature review, or perhaps because of it, we did not find a definite personality profile specific to fibromyalgia. However, many patients with fibromyalgia show personality characteristics that facilitate psychological responses to stressful situations, such as catastrophic situations or poor coping techniques, and these, in turn, are associated with mechanisms that contribute to fibromyalgia. Anyone with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder, will tell you what a debilitating condition it is.

They will also tell you how sadly most people misunderstand you. Today, researchers know that fibromyalgia and its symptoms are genuine and require active treatment to provide significant relief. Both depression and anxiety, another mental health problem associated with fibromyalgia, may be due in part to the persistence of painful symptoms that can make it difficult to socialize and participate in the daily activities that most of us take for granted. In a study comparing 73 fibromyalgia patients and 200 controls, fibromyalgia patients reported significantly higher levels of somatic anxiety (autonomic disorders, distress and panic attacks), muscle tension, and psychasthenia (fatigue).

In fact, many of the recommended treatments for fibromyalgia seek to combat both the mental health aspects of the disease and physical pain. Either way, it's clear that depression, along with many other mental health conditions, is something that people living with fibromyalgia experience frequently and can seriously affect their quality of life. Neuroticism, together with stress, was found to have good predictive power in a sample that compared 22 patients with fibromyalgia to 17 patients in the control group. These last two side effects are of particular concern, as 20% of people with fibromyalgia report problems with depression and anxiety.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects 2-4% of Americans, according to the American College of Rheumatology. As debilitating as the physical symptoms are, the emotional effects of fibromyalgia can also be devastating, especially if those symptoms are ignored. The pain may come and go, but it must be chronic (lasting at least three months) for a person to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. What's worse, fibromyalgia symptoms can often be triggered or worsened by emotional stress, creating a self-perpetuating cycle and making treatment difficult.

For fibromyalgia patients who have mental health problems, there are many treatment options. Most scientists believe that the symptoms of fibromyalgia are due to differences in the way the nervous system reacts to painful and non-painful stimuli. It's not clear if fibromyalgia triggers depression, if people with fibromyalgia have a greater propensity for depression, or if depression is simply a part of the condition. While fibromyalgia is known for the physical symptoms it causes, it's important not to underestimate its impact on emotional health.

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