FIBROMYALGIA AND COGNITIVE BEHAVIOR
Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disease characterized by widespread body pain which can be mild to severe. It affects the connective tissue and the muscles in joints and where muscles attach to bones. The pain can really debilitating and crippling and often causes insomnia. Being able to sleep well is very important for one’s wellbeing and feeling tired all the time can affect your brain. It’s almost like a snowball effect. One thing starts and it gets worse as time progresses.
Our brains are complicated and fibromyalgia was once thought of as a neuropsychiatric disease, however, fibromyalgia is very real. Unfortunately, this disorder does affect your cognitive part which is actively analyzing, scheming, evaluating, rationalizing and sometimes distorting reality. At times you may think you have cotton in your brain. This is known as fibro-fog. Pain associated with fibromyalgia may bring on migraines too.
Fibro-fog is best defined as having problems with concentration, long and short term memory, problem solving, impaired speed of performance, diminished attention span, inability to multi-task and cognitive overload. Anxiety and depression have also been linked with fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia can be very negative in their way of thinking when diagnosed with this condition. Statements like “why me?” or “there’s no cure and the pain won’t get better” and “nobody understands how I feel” are constantly voiced out and can lead up to depression. Because of this attitude towards fibromyalgia, many people seek out cognitive behavior treatment that emphasizes on the relationship of beliefs, emotions, thoughts and behavior.
Studies show that the way we think is often the way we feel. Pleasant thoughts can even cancel out bad feelings or bad behavior. Strategies of this important treatment included education to recognize destructive thought patterns and learning to practice certain methods for decreasing pain, anxiety, fatigue and distress. This can really encourage sufferers of fibromyalgia.
Cognitive therapy involves training in ways to cope with fibromyalgia and learning ways to relax. These skills then can proceed to improve problem solving development and upcoming cognitive restructuring in areas long thought of as doubtful by victims of fibromyalgia. In other words, instead of being so cynical about this disorder, a more positive attitude is established.
Cognitive restructuring can actually help people with fibromyalgia manage their symptoms better. The ability to identify long-standing patterns of thinking, which are associated with depression, unhappiness, stress and anxiety, is the goal of this particular method of therapy. It is an active process that is individually controlled. Once the patterns are identified the decision to change them is yours alone. Some people set out to do what they will do and are successful in reaching their goal. Then some are the “cup is half empty” group, which are negative by nature and just plain miserable anywhere and all the time.
Now, this is not to say that positive thinking will make the pain go away or your symptoms stop. It just makes you aware of the close connection between thoughts and feelings. For example; it’s truly amazing how many people think about things or events that cause them to worry about it, thus producing more tension or stress and thereby increasing their fibromyalgia pain. The stuff they worry about doesn’t really exist. These are negative automatic thoughts. Once the worrisome thoughts are pinpointed and analyzed, a positive approach is taken to nullify them. By asking yourself questions like “why am I so worried about that?” and analyzing the “why” can often lead to rationalizing your feelings and there by relax you enough to relieve some of the pain related to fibromyalgia. Contemporary cognitive behavior treatment is based on the idea that negative emotions are the result of dysfunctional thinking shaped by the beliefs of the patient. What you believe is how you feel and your thoughts are fueled by your attitude. A specially trained therapist or a support group would help in this area.
Communication skills training will also teach the patient appropriate assertiveness which generally releases tension and negative feelings being bottled up and just waiting to vent. This type of cognitive release involves positive interaction with medical staff or others such as a support group.
Other elements of cognitive behavior therapy include realistic goal setting for work or activities involving friends or family, relaxation training such as in controlled breathing, physical exercises and discussions with your doctor.
Although this form of behavior therapy is used more for mood disorders, it has been noted to improve the aspects of the syndrome of fibromyalgia rather than the pain, consequently, it should be recommended for management of fibromyalgia especially for those individuals who suffer emotionally rather than physically.
Being positive is crucial to feeling better physically, emotionally and mentally. These suggestions are meant to help you restructure your thoughts into being more realistic and helpful.