Although fibromyalgia may primarily be a physical condition, the mental implications can often be just as profound. Family members may doubt your diagnosis, friends may be frustrated by your limited lifestyle, and you may be faced daily with a mixture of depression, anxiety, anger and fear. Learning to cope with fibromyalgia and its emotional fallout can be overwhelming, but luckily there are recognized treatments—both mental and physical—that can alleviate some of your symptoms, and help you regain a sense of normalcy in your life.
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, then you know its characteristics, which include pain, tenderness and stiffness that manifests throughout the body (often most severely in the joints). The classic “dull ache” can feel like deep muscular pain, and may be associated with tingling or weakness in the limbs. You may also experience extreme sensitivity to pressure and pain, most particularly in several “tender points” located throughout the body. These “tender points” may feel particular painful when touched with firm pressure, and their presence is a primary element in a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Sleep disruption, fatigue and depression are also hallmarks of the syndrome.
While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, medical research suggests that it may ultimately be caused by dysfunctions at the chemical levels of the brain which cause an individual to have abnormally sensitive reactions to pain. Fibromyalgia has also been known to run in families, however, some individuals have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia as a function of a post-traumatic stress disorder without any prior family history. This suggests that stress may also be a trigger. This is just one reason why stress-relief—along with medication, diet, exercise and an emphasis on plenty of sleep—is a major component in treatment plans addressing fibromyalgia’s physical symptoms.
Beyond the physical pain, fibromyalgia also has an extensive emotional component, which can include depression, anxiety and fatigue. Like a one-two punch, these emotional difficulties can sap the strength to deal with the syndrome’s physical implications, and can leave you feeling even more depressed, anxious and fearful about your ability to cope. Sufferers often feel frustrated about being unable to accomplish everyday tasks with ease, or angry that their abilities have been limited. Some are discouraged by the social disruptions in their lives, such as alienation from friends and family who may not understand (or may refuse to believe) the extent of the pain; the lack of social support may undermine your will and further exacerbate feelings of hopelessness. You may even worry about losing your job because of diminished job performance and late arrivals, all thanks to your morning pain and restive sleep. Each sleepless night, you, like millions of others, may find yourself feeling overwhelmingly anxious about the future—wondering if you’ll ever get better, fearing that you won’t.
Counseling for Patients with Fibromyalgia
There is hope. There are ways to combat these emotional effects of fibromyalgia! Mental health counseling can help you develop strategies to cope with emotional overload, and to work with you to develop a full, productive life. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT) is one of the tools that mental health counselors have been able to successfully use to help fibromyalgia sufferers make significant strides towards syndrome management. This type of therapy allows clients with fibromyalgia to process their emotional and physical stress while establishing a goal-oriented system of progress toward stability.
Sessions with a licensed therapist will focus on strategies for successfully integrating the realities of fibromyalgia into your life, while building up the emotional constancy and psychological fortitude to face the future with a clear and conscientious attitude. By becoming aware of the mental processes that are miring you in depression and anxiety, this therapy can help you regain a sense of control, actively diminishing the power that fibromyalgia has over your life and moving you towards a more positive future.
Vocational Counseling for Patients with Fibromyalgia
At that time, mental health counselors can also help you to seize the possibilities of that future through vocational counseling, which can help you to become functionally and fruitfully employed, while still giving you the time and space to actively manage your syndrome. Once you are ready to work, vocational counselors will take into account your talents, specific limitations and active ambitions to help you craft a lifestyle that is both fulfilling and accommodating of your specific situation. Back on the job and secure in your sense of capability, tackling the physical issues associated with fibromyalgia begins to seem more possible.
As you are likely well aware, fibromyalgia can be a physically-challenging and emotionally-overwhelming syndrome, but it doesn’t have to dominate your life. Through mental health counseling, you can realize freedom from the chains of fear, anger, and depression so common among those with fibromyalgia, discovering that despite the pain and depression, you’ve been there all along— ready to fight to reclaim your life!
Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended for general information purposes only. Medical questions about fibromyalgia should be addressed to a physician.