COPING WITH THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF FYBROMYALGIA
Fybromyalgia (FMS) is a very real disease. It has physiological symptoms that can really throw a curve to your lifestyle. Chronic, widespread, muscular pain and tenderness, sleep problems, fatigue, morning stiffness and headaches, concentration and digestive irregularities: all of these symptoms can make daily functioning very difficult. But equally challenging are the depression and anxiety that often accompany the disorder. These symptoms cause the blues for many fybromyalgia patients.
During their lifetime, 62 percent of fibromyalgia patients may experience symptoms of major depressive disorder, and 56 percent may experience some type of anxiety disorder. While it isn’t abnormal to have an emotional or psychological response to a chronic illness, there may be other physiological reasons that explain why anxiety and depression occur in fibromyalgia patients reliably enough that they are listed as symptoms of the condition.
PHYSICAL FACTORS THAT AFFECT EMOTIONAL HEALTH
According to some doctors who routinely treat fibromyalgia, there are a number of conditions that appear to increase the likelihood of developing anxiety and/or depression if you have this condition.
- Hypothyroidism – According to one specialist, Ninety-five percent of people with fibromyalgia have low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) and 100 percent of them have low adrenal function; both of which can cause depression and anxiety.
- Low cortisol levels – Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. When the adrenals produce an insufficient supply of cortisol, it can result in what is sometimes called “adrenal fatigue.” Among the symptoms are muscle aches and pains, extreme fatigue, and anxiety.
- Poor mitochondrial functioning – Mitochondria are the energy-producing parts of the cell vital to body processes like metabolism. When their function is disrupted, they can help cause the development of depression and anxiety in people with fibromyalgia.
- Vitamin D deficiency – Those who suffer from fybromyalgia have low levels of vitamin D, which has also been found to occur more frequently in patients with anxiety and depression.
- Poor sleep – Insufficient, restorative sleep can lead to or aggravate existing anxiety and depression in people with fibromyalgia. Patients are also unable to achieve REM sleep. There are many reasons why patients get insufficient sleep. Antidepressant medication, which patients take for other symptoms, can suppress REM sleep in certain people. Other causes include muscular aches and pains and, according to one study, decreased levels of the hormone melatonin.
SOLUTIONS TO UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Fortunately, unlike FMS, most of these underlying conditions have treatments that help patients, thus helping the fybromyalgia symptoms as well. For hypothyroidism, a simple blood test will reveal the condition and once treated with appropriate medication, thyroid function should return to normal, and depression or anxiety should go away.
Adrenal fatigue, the result of low cortisol levels, can occur when the body is under stress for extended periods of time and can be determined by saliva testing. Cortisol levels can then be normalized by reducing stress. Although it may take up to two years for the process to work, once cortisol levels are restored, fibromyalgia-related anxiety and depression are generally reduced.
Those who suffer from poor mitochondrial functioning can take supplements to help with their condition. Supplements such as coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), the amino acid-like compound L-carnitine, and others can help to recharge the mitochondria. In some fybromyalgia patients, taking supplements has been helpful in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you suffer from vitamin D deficiency, you can replenish this vitamin by supplementation and eating foods enriched with this nutrient, such as fortified orange juice or margarine.
If you have insomnia or difficulty sleeping at night, there are several things you can do. First, have a sleep schedule that you stick to every night. Have a set time to go to bed and a set time to wake up. This will help your body establish a routine with sleep. Next, do activities that are conducive to sleep. Read a book, take a relaxing, warm bath, or play soft, melodic tunes. Sometimes a cup a warm, herb tea that has herbs for helping sleep will do the trick. Lastly, prepare your bedroom so that it is also conducive to sleep. Take out the T.V. and internet which tends to excite the body and replace it with a CD player with soft music. You might even try aromatherapy to soothe your mind and thoughts.
Clearly, emotional symptoms to FMS are real. Sometimes these symptoms are caused by underlying conditions in addition to the fybromyalgia symptoms. Finding these conditions and treating them will help with your overall state of mind and physical condition. With your doctor’s help, you can overcome the symptoms and find ways to cope with the emotional side of fybromyalgia.