PTSD and Fibromyalgia: What’s the Connection?

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When people think of fibromyalgia, they often think of older individuals as being the ones who suffer from this.

However, fibromyalgia is one of those illnesses that can affect men, women, and children. While it may be found more commonly in women, anyone can be affected by this regardless of age, race, and ethnicity.

The causes of fibromyalgia are debated daily among medical professionals. This is an illness that has been studied and researched more frequently in the last few years due to the overwhelming number of new patients who are diagnosed with this.

The Causes of Fibromyalgia

There are several causes of fibromyalgia that have been pinpointed by the numerous studies that have been performed.

These causes range from having a major infection at some point in their lives to injuries that have occurred. However, more recently, studies are showcasing that emotional trauma could lead to developing fibromyalgia.

Specifically speaking, PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is being linked to those who are developing this illness.

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a disorder that developed in some people who have experienced an event that was shocking, scary, or dangerous.

This is being seen in many military men and women who are faced with combat, in rape survivors, and others who have been through an emotionally trying situation. In a traumatic situation, the flight or fight response is activated in the person.

Many people can get over this. However, in others, this flight or fight response stays activated in the body which can cause several different issues.

For example, a person with PTSD may feel stressed or scared in situations that are not that dangerous. It is when this occurs that the person is diagnosed with PTSD.

The Signs of PTSD

There are several signs of PTSD that doctors are looking for in patients who they believe may have PTSD.

These symptoms may include:

  1. Having flashbacks over the event that results in the body physically changing such as sweating or the heartbeat increasing
  2. Dreams that make it hard for a good night’s sleep
  3. Having thoughts that are considered frightening
  4. Staying away from people, places, or events that remind them of this event
  5. Avoiding their feelings and thoughts towards this traumatic event
  6. Feeling tense or on edge all the time
  7. Having angry outbursts
  8. Being easily startled
  9. Have trouble with sleeping
  10. The person may have negative thoughts towards themselves or the world
  11. They have distorted feelings like guilt or blame related to this event
  12. They have lost interest in those activities that they once enjoyed
  13. They may have memory issues with the traumatic event that occurred, block out these events, or simply not remember these as they happened.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia and PTSD

How Do PTSD and Fibromyalgia Connect?

Now that you understand what PTSD is and the symptoms that come with this, most people wonder how this is creating a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

The main theory is that when a person has this level of stress in their systems from their PTSD that their serotonin levels in the brain drop.

This leads to a substance P increase, which is seen in fibromyalgia patients. Those with PTSD may also find that they start to show signs of fibromyalgia on top of the PTSD symptoms that they experience.

These symptoms are:

  • Feeling achy and tired all the time
  • They often report feeling as though they are living their life in a fog
  • Memory issues
  • Having issues with sleeping
  • Stomach issues that lead to even more discomfort

Treatment for Fibromyalgia and PTSD

Treating patients who have fibromyalgia due to also having PTSD results in a different approach than if the person were to simply have developed fibromyalgia.

For example, trauma treatment is often one of the first recommendations to these patients.

Trauma treatment will consist of:

  • Visiting a therapist and talking through this trauma
  • Utilizing medications to help keep the serotonin levels where they should be
  • Group counseling to help with achieving a balance in life
  • Learning how to turn your negative outlook on life into one that is positive

When a person is being treated for their trauma, they are going to find that this is an ongoing process.

This is not something that is going to be cured in a few days. It will require months, even years, of therapy to get through the trauma and start to live a life that is not bombarded with self-doubt or avoiding living.

While trauma treatment is a must-have for PTSD/Fibromyalgia patients, they must also treat those symptoms of fibromyalgia.

In this case, the treatments may involve:

  • Certain medications to help with pain
  • Exercising to keep muscles strong
  • Learning how to set limits so that you do not overdo it
  • Eating right to avoid the many stomach issues that arise with fibromyalgia
  • Sticking to a schedule that involves getting the right amount of sleep
  • Massage therapy to help with the aches and pains associated with fibromyalgia

Treating these patients involves looking at both illnesses and treating them together. You cannot treat one without the other in hopes of success. Success will only come from treating both of these issues.

Will PTSD and Fibromyalgia Treatment Cure a Person?

Those who do have both of these issues, often question whether treatment for their PTSD will cure their fibromyalgia.

In some cases, many people have found that they have gone back to living their normal lives. However, it does take time.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and PTSD is a new disorder that is being analyzed, thus finding a cure is not the goal.

Instead, the goal is to get PTSD sufferers to live life normally, to not find that they fear daily life. Through doing this, people can go on to have a great life that is full of happiness and light rather than depression and pain.

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