Chronic Pain, Depression, Fibromyalgia, Health

Depression & Fibromyalgia

Depression is a major issue with Fibromyalgia.  Many professionals think that depression can even cause Fibromyalgia.  While this may be true for some people, it certainly was not the case with me.  My depression was secondary to my chronic pain.  Let’s be honest, how happy can you be when you are in pain 24/7, 365 days of the year!

Many studies link Fibromyalgia and depression.  In fact, people with Fibromyalgia are up to three times more likely to have depression at the time of the diagnosis than someone without Fibromyalgia.

Some researchers study the effects of depression on brain chemistry.  Others look at abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that determines how you handle stress and emergencies.  These abnormalities, they contend, may lead to the release of substances that cause more sensitivity to pain.  The result is Fibromyalgia with its chronic pain and feelings of depression.

Learning more about the connection between Fibromyalgia and depression can help you seek appropriate medical treatment from your doctor.  That includes asking your doctor about antidepressants.

By following an appropriate Fibromyalgia treatment plan and getting the support of family and friends, you can take control of your Fibromyalgia.  You can also get control over your symptoms of depression and improve your quality of life.

So what is depression?

Depression is a serious and pervasive mood disorder.  It may be described as feelings of sadness, loss, and anger that interfere with a person’s everyday activities.  While most people feel sad or depressed at times, it’s a normal reaction to loss or life’s struggles.  When these feelings of sadness, feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless become so intense and last for days, weeks or even months,  thereby keeping you from living your life, it is then something more than just sadness.  It is possibly clinical depression … a treatable medical condition.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Mood: anger, aggressiveness, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness, mood swings, crying.
  • Emotional: feeling empty, intense sadness, hopeless, anxious, feelings of incompetence or despair, crying.
  • Behavioral: loss of interest, no longer finding pleasure in favorite activities, feeling tired easily, thoughts of suicide, drinking excessively, using drugs, engaging in high-risk activities, withdrawing from social engagements.
  • Sexual: reduced sexual desire, lack of sexual performance.
  • Cognitive: inability to concentrate, difficulty completing tasks, delayed responses during conversations, thinking or talking more slowly.
  • Sleep: Insomnia, restless sleep, excessive sleepiness, not sleeping through the night, waking early, sleeping too much.
  • Physical: Decreased energy, greater fatigue, aches, pains, headaches, digestive problems, increased cramps, change in appetite, weight changes.

Research also shows that depression can manifest as physical pain too.  These are the common physical symptoms of depression:

  1. Fatigue or consistent lower energy levels.
  2. Decreased pain tolerance.
  3. Back pain or aching muscles all over.
  4. Headaches
  5. Eye problems or decreasing vision
  6. Stomach pain or uneasiness in the abdomen
  7. Digestive problems or irregular bowel schedules

The reason is that brain chemicals linked to depression, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, play a role in both mood and pain.

What is the link between Fibromyalgia and Depression?

The stress from Fibromyalgia’s pain and fatigue can cause anxiety and social isolation.  The chronic deep muscle and tender point pain can result in less activity.  That causes you to become more withdrawn and can also lead to depression.  It is also possible that anxiety and depression are part of Fibromyalgia, just like the pain.

Depression and Fibromyalgia can greatly interfere with the way you manage your activities at home or at work.  So it is important to openly discuss any symptoms of depression you have with your doctors.

Causes of depression

There are several causes of depression.  They range from biological, psychological and social sources of distress.  Increasingly, research suggests that these factors may cause changes in brain function, including altered activity of certain neural circuits in the brain.  Common causes include the following:

  • Family History:  You’re at a higher risk for developing depression if you have a family history of depression or another mood disorder.
  • Early childhood trauma:  Some events impact the way that the body reacts to fear and stressful situations.
  • Brain structure:  There’s a greater risk for depression if the frontal lobe of your brain is less active.  However, scientists don’t know if this happens before or after the onset of depressive symptoms.
  • Medical conditions:  Certain conditions may put you at higher risk, such as chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Drug use:  A history of drug or alcohol misuse can impact your risk.

There is no single test to diagnose depression.  Doctor’s make a diagnosis based on your symptoms and a psychological evaluation.  Depression can also be linked to other health conditions and so your doctor will do a physical examination and order blood work to rule these out.

If depression is not treated, complications include:

  • weight gain or loss
  • physical pain
  • substance abuse problems
  • panic attacks
  • relationship problems
  • social isolation
  • suicidal thoughts
  • self-mutilation

Treatment for depression

Treatment for depression can help improve your quality of life.  You may successfully manage your symptoms with one form of treatment, or you may find that a combination of treatments work better.  It is common to combine medical treatments and lifestyle therapies which include the following:  Medication, Psychotherapy, Light Therapy, Alternate Therapies, Exercise, Avoiding alcohol and drugs, Setting boundaries for yourself and taking care of yourself.  Increasingly, research suggests that these treatments may normalize brain changes associated with depression.

Depression & Fibromyalgia


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