THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF FYBROMYALGIA
The symptoms of fybromyalgia are real and physiological in nature. 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 CAN AFFECT EMOTIONAL HEALTH
According to some doctors who routinely treat fibromyalgia, there are a number of factors 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. Fortunately, hypothyroidism is easy to diagnose and identify the problem. Once treated with appropriate medication, thyroid function should return to normal, and depression or anxiety should go away.
- 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. Adrenal fatigue can occur when the body is under stress for extended periods of time and can be determined by saliva testing.
Cortisol levels can be normalized by reducing stress. And 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.
- 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. Supplements such as coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), the amino acid-like compound L-carnitine, and other supplements can help to recharge the mitochondria. In some fybromyalgia patients, taking supplements has been helpful in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- 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. This vitamin can be replenished by supplementation and eating foods enriched with this nutrient, such as fortified orange juice or margarine.
- 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.
There are many factors to examine which may cause depression and anxiety in patients with fybromyalgia. Knowing and treating these underlying causes will help remove the blues that accompany this syndrome.