Living with Fibro

Is Fibromyalgia Linked to PTSD?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia and post-traumatic stress disorder are so similar that many people have wondered if one may be mistaken for the others. Studies have shown that this is rarely the case.

In a surprise twist however, recent studies looking at the question of is fibromyalgia linked to PTSD have discovered that the answer is a resounding “yes.”

If you have one you now have a much higher risk factor for the other. Even more interesting is that the majority of the recent studies looked at male population only in regards to the fibromyalgia.

This is a huge step forward in recognizing that fibromyalgia is not a woman’s disease, but a disease that anyone can get.

The symptom cluster in a male may include different items than are currently listed in the general (female based) symptom cluster criteria.

What new studies are showing

Recent studies have been showing more of a crossover in symptomology for both disorders, but one stands out. A research group looked at the symptoms of a group of men with PTSD to see if they qualified for a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

They found that a remarkable number of men in the group met the criteria, while those in the control group who suffered from depression or no psychiatric illness did not come close to being considered to have fibromyalgia.

This was the first time that men were looked at closely in regards to fibromyalgia, and one of the few studies to feature both that, and PTSD. This has a great deal of importance to you, male or female.

What does this mean for you?

Whether you suffer from fibromyalgia or PTSD, the studies now show that there is an increased risk factor for you developing the companion disorder you are missing. This is going to play a very important role in you treatment.

If someone with the diagnosis of PTSD is not medically treated for their fibromyalgia, their ability to overcome the pain and suffering of the PTSD is going to be severely hindered by the pain and suffering of the untreated fibromyalgia.

Conversely, knowing that having fibromyalgia can raise your risk of having post-traumatic stress disorder can give you and your doctors a chance to act proactively so you do not suffer as greatly from this illness.

How do you get PTSD?

PTSD is related to traumatic events. The experience of trauma – physical, psychological or emotional – can cause an imbalance in certain chemicals that then lead to a high stress reaction and low stress tolerance.

This translates into anxiety, depression, panic, flashbacks and other symptoms. The trauma can occur at any point in your life. Interestingly enough, facing adversity in early life has been connected to developing fibromyalgia for a long time.

Why would fibromyalgia link to PTSD?

The thinking about whether fibromyalgia linked to PTSD goes beyond just shared common symptoms. Studies noted that two neurochemicals, and their reactions, both were changed in persons with either or both illnesses present.

The first is the gastrin releasing peptide (GRP) which is usually only present during emotional confrontations, and the second is the presence of the gene 5-HTTLPR.

Both of these, along with the amygdala, the area of the brain effected in both illnesses, have to do with controlling our fight or flight responses.

Which means they both use serotonin to work. It is the serotonin connection that is most strongly linking fibromyalgia and PTSD together.

The role of serotonin in both

Serotonin imbalances have long been recognized in the treatment of fibromyalgia. It is one of the reasons why the very first medication suggested is an anti-depressant.

The person may or may not be clinically depressed, but their serotonin is definitely going out of balance. Keeping it in check can help prevent further depression.

The constant stress and anxiety associated with PTSD is also characterized by a serotonin imbalance. The role that serotonin plays in pain and inflammation is just beginning to be studied, it may do far more for the body than just keep you from becoming depressed.

 Fibromyalgia and PTSD

Treatments and management support

The treatments and management support methods for fibromyalgia and PTSD are very similar, but there are some core differences.

Medication is a part of both treatments to help control serotonin levels, as are stress relief and management techniques.

You need to make sure that your doctor is aware that fibromyalgia is linked to PTSD so that they can monitor you for the development of symptoms. Adopting lifestyle changes whether you are diagnosed with both or just one is a recommended proactive option.

Lifestyle changes are necessary for both

No matter if what you have been diagnosed with, science knows that an essential part of treatment and management of fibromyalgia and PTSD is diet and exercise.

The ways that fibromyalgia linked to PTSD in the body via neurochemicals and stress reactions can be greatly reduce or eliminated by making sure you are following a diet recommended for both conditions, and exercising on a regular basis.

Not only will this prevent flare-ups but it can also manage your serotonin levels naturally so less medication is needed. There are also many alternative treatments that have proven successful for both conditions that you should explore.

What you should never allow yourself to forget

When you have fibromyalgia linked to PTSD you cannot afford to forget that one of the core treatments for the disease – stress reduction and management – also is one of the primary treatments for the disorder.

Whether or not your doctor has decided there is a definitive link, you can be proactive in addressing how you handle your stress and you cannot go wrong.

Whether you take up yoga, meditation or just exercising to burn stress away – it is one of the best, and most effective, non-medical treatments you can afford to give yourself. You deserve a high quality of life; take action to make sure you get the life you deserve.

Resources

http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/post-traumatic-stress-disorder

http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/news/20040610/posttraumatic-stress-fibromyalgia-linked?page=2

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/basics/symptoms/con-20022540

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

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Living with Fibro

6 Comments

  • Well, this is very interesting….and good to know. My youngest daughter (12) has recently been diagnosed with PTSD due to family issues that happened a few years back, she’s been in therapy for a while, but the diagnosis was made with her new therapist. thanks for sharing this post. I never even thought of it, but glad I know now, so I can let her pediatrician know also to maybe look out.

  • This is very interesting, as I have severe fibromyalgia and also suffered a violent abussive childhood, I still get flash backs from the past and it makes me very anxious and down. Which then starts up a flare of unbearable intense pain and fatigue & Exhaustion. I’m glad you’ve shared, thank you.

  • Interesting about the Serotonin levels for sure. But what lots of people like you fail to recognize is that “exercise & diet” are easier said than done when you are fighting for your life. When Anxiety & Flashbacks are so bad they render you paralised. When your Fibro is so bad it hurts like crazy & don’t forget the fatigue!! Boy you wish you did not have to snack… but you eat to survive, eat to keep going. When you are so scared, you have such terrifying nightmares that you feel like you are drowning and you can’t awaken from your sleep. Some things are easier said than done & somethings cannot just “go away” as if by magic with “exercise & diet”… especially when you are drowning & waking up, getting ready = a thousand processes before the day has even began. Existence is painful. Sometimes, just sometimes; you get a good day & the last thing on your mind is “exercise & diet”. Hope is but a thing of the past. Luckily for me I am a fighter & one day I will defeat this and life will regain normality.

  • Very interesting indeed. As I have often wondered myself if my fibromyalgia was in part as result of trauma I had experienced earlier in life. I was diagnosed in my late 20s,, and told that it (fibromyalgia ) was usually a preindicator to something -(that something ended up being a muscular dystrophy that runs in my family. )
    As I said I had often wondered if there were a correlation between the fibromyalgia and trauma. I am a child abuse (physical /emotional ) survivor and had a relationship in my early 20s than was similarly abusive. I never considered that I was someone with ptsd though – just that the earlier physical, mental and emotional abuse could have somehow correlated to the fibromyalgia.

  • I strongly agree that they are both linked. I feel that my symptoms have been allowed to settle and I can say that I am quite stable at present. I believe dealing with my PTSD by going through a very distressing trial after having my dad’s uncle extradited from Oz for my sexual abuse as a young child. He was found guilty and life since then is brighter and the relief of many many years of struggling with ill health and the trauma of waiting 9 years since reporting the abuse to getting to the stage where they brought him back for trial. My life has changed for the better and hence my Fibromyalgia and ME have stabilised and I won’t ever be free from the ill health as it’s all chronic and my ill health is very complex and I currently require to take 50 tablets every single day for all my diagnoses. I will agree that both things are linked in my case.

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