In this article, we are going to analyze the psychological aspects of this disease called fibromyalgia. Fibro comes from fiber, mio means muscle, and algia is pain. Therefore, fibromyalgia is pain in the muscle fibers, in a literal translation, but there are several other symptoms in this complex disease, affecting 2% of the population in the United States.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by body pains of at least three months, fatigue, sleep disturbances, which can be insomnia, or non-restorative sleep, tingling in the hands, feet, and middle of the back, intestine sometimes constipated and sometimes with diarrhea, and mood changes including discouragement. About 25% of fibromyalgia patients have depression, that is, one in four people.
Commonly it involves anxiety, difficulty in concentrating and performing common tasks, headache, and swelling in the body. In fibromyalgia, there are some pain points in the body, in the trapezius muscle which is in the shoulder area, on both sides of the neck, in the buttocks, in the region of the joints of arms and legs, and some other places.
The cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown. It is believed to be due to the decrease of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain, the person loses the ability to regulate pain and the impulses are misinterpreted. It is a painful syndrome, without inflammation. It affects twenty women for one man.
It appears at any age, but most commonly between forty and sixty years of age. It is common for women with fibromyalgia to be perfectionists, taking on too much at home and at work. Clinical histories reveal that before they became ill, they were the best at work, they were super mothers, and superwomen at home. With the disease, they feel limited and by ceasing to be the best, it is lowering their self-esteem.
The more they feel inferior, the more symptoms appear. The patients themselves are amazed at the disease because they were very well, they felt super powerful, they did everything, solved everything for everyone, and colleagues and family members are also puzzled, saying that these people are inventing the disease and that they have nothing at all. It is common for people with fibromyalgia to go from doctor to doctor. Some uninformed people may think that the person only has psychological problems and nothing else.
The main specialist to be consulted with symptoms of fibromyalgia is the rheumatologist. It cannot be said that fibromyalgia is curable, but it is controllable. There are no tests that identify the disease, the diagnosis is clinical. The specialist will order tests to evaluate a differential diagnosis, that is, excluding other possible diseases, especially of the thyroid, which can have some symptoms that would mix with the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The individual with fibromyalgia can improve by 20% when the well-informed doctor tells him that he is not crazy and that he has such a disease. He can improve another 20% when he finds out that the disease, although painful, does not kill, and for the other 60%, medicine has many limitations to offer a cure.
It is necessary to start a permanent lifestyle change including aerobic exercises, such as daily walking, using more natural foods, pure water, family understanding, looking for relaxation that reduces tension and improves sleep, also reducing the tragic interpretation of events, and learning a strategy of dealing with problems without overloading himself. It may be useful a temporary medication to improve mood, for sleep, and also using an analgesic. It is important that the fibromyalgia patient makes an effort to change their own behavior at the pace they can.
Among those suffering from this disease, some are perfectionists, very demanding, take on burdens that are not theirs, and in this case, you need to learn to set limits, not to take on what is not your responsibility, even if others complain that you have stopped doing what you did before, and learn to disconnect from the problems that they want to throw at you for you to assume, and that does not mean that you have become an irresponsible person.
It is not uncommon in families where someone has fibromyalgia, to see a tendency for some members of that family to omit themselves, and to throw the load on a single person, and this person, accepting this, takes on everyone’s problems, looking for solutions alone, that is, taking on burdens that are not theirs.
But if that person tends to take on everything, the other family members or co-workers settle in and leave the burdens on him, that person will be overworked. So this person ends up carrying other people’s problems, and this can become so suffocating and so heavy, that there comes a time when the body and mind say: We can’t take it anymore!
Then symptoms may arise, which may be, for example, those of fibromyalgia. It is possible to be a responsible, productive, helpful person without taking on what is not yours, and not absorbing unfair criticism from those who want to play on the person what they should assume. Fibromyalgia also affects children and adolescents and occurs mainly in girls between nine and fifteen years of age.
This gives rise to symptoms that may be, for example, fibromyalgia. It is possible to be a responsible, productive, helpful person, without taking on what is not yours, and without absorbing unfair criticism from those who want to throw all the responsibility at the person.
Fibromyalgia also affects children and adolescents and occurs mainly in girls between nine and fifteen years of age. The symptoms are similar to those of adults, adding frequent school absences due to illness. Some scientific studies have shown that children and young people with fibromyalgia had an average of 41 days of absence from school per year, while in the general population, the average is 9 days per year.
From a psychological point of view, people with fibromyalgia have a worse quality of life, and have more symptoms of depression and anxiety, generating a greater amount of suffering behaviors. Some studies have shown that young people with fibromyalgia seem to come from families whose members are more disorganized and anxious, and this would influence the way they face life’s problems.
Fibromyalgia treatment involves medications only for the control of symptoms, such as pain, insomnia, excessive anxiety, and depression. Physiotherapy, the practice of physical exercises, preferably outdoors, as well as psychotherapy are needed. It helps a lot to learn coping strategies for everyday problems to help with stress reduction. If that involves the cause of your illness, it will also be the best form of cure.
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.