What Is Depression?
Sadness is a normal reaction to loss or life’s struggles. Depression surpasses sadness and becomes a problem that affects your whole life. People who are depressed commonly experience:
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- weight loss or gain
- thoughts about death
- Irritability and guilt
- Anxiety that won’t go away
- Insecurity and a feeling of helplessness
- decreased energy
- difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- uncontrollable tearfulness
These thoughts, physical changes, and feelings interfere with daily life.
What Is the Link Between Fibromyalgia and Depression?
The stress from fibromyalgia’s pain and fatigue can cause anxiety and social isolation. The chronic deep muscle and tender point pain can result in less activity. That causes you to become more withdrawn and can also lead to depression. It is also possible that anxiety and depression are part of fibromyalgia, just like the pain.
Depression and fibromyalgia can greatly interfere with the way you manage your activities at home or at work. So it is important to openly discuss any symptoms of depression you have with your doctors.
Does Stress Increase Depression With Fibromyalgia?
The stress of living with chronic pain and relentless fatigue can put a person into “overload.” This results in near catastrophic levels of nervousness and anxiety. Doctors aren’t certain yet whether stress brings on Fibromyalgia or if Fibromyalgia brings on stress. All we know for certain is that it’s a vicious circle and that stress adds to problems of anger and irritability. Most patients feel their pain and fatigue worsening over time.
Is Depression Common With Invisible Illness?
Feelings of depression are common with all types of chronic pain, including headache, back and neck pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and the pain of fibromyalgia. For example, the prevalence of major depression in people with chronic low back pain is about three times greater than in the general population.
Continuing that vicious circle, being depressed also increases the risk of developing chronic pain. Patients describe greater disturbances because of pain and display more pain behaviours than other pain patients who are not depressed.
One of the worst things that happens is that people with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia start to isolate themselves from family and friends at a time when they often need them the most. They become more focused on their pain, which causes further withdrawal which then causes more depression and round and round it goes.
Ways to Ease Depression With Fibromyalgia
It’s important to understand that fibromyalgia is more than the deep muscle pain and tender points you feel. It encompasses everything about you — your feelings, emotions, and attitude; the way you respond to stress; and the way you communicate with others.
The good news is, though, that while there is no cure, the fibromyalgia pain and symptoms of depression can be successfully treated.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
One of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia and depression is a program called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is a type of treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviours. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders, including depression, and anxiety.
This negative self-talk can fuel a sense that negative experiences are catastrophes, which further increases stress, anxiety, depression, and pain.
Your doctor can refer you to a CBT program offered individually (often online) or in a group format.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
This program, which teaches mindfulness to patients, had demonstrated remarkable benefits for reducing fibromyalgia pain as well as anxiety and depression. “Mindfulness is an awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of mindfulness in medicine.
Being mindful means intentionally being present with your breath, thoughts, feelings, and sensations. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, body scans, mindful eating, or mindful movements like yoga or Tai Chi.
You can find an MBSR program offered in your community through your doctor.
- Music for Pain Management
Music has a powerful effect on the mind – listening to music is associated with the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that is known to have a role in the body’s natural pain-relieving mechanisms. It also produces relaxation, which in turn can help to lift your mood and ease your pain.
A study published in Science Daily found that, when people with chronic pain listen to music for an hour a day, they experienced up to a 21 per cent reduction in pain and a 25 per cent reduction in depression. Additionally, they found that listening to music made participants feel less disabled by their condition and more in control of their pain.
Music that you find relaxing is likely to be the most effective for improving mood and pain levels. However, music doesn’t have to be soft and soothing to be effective. Whatever type of music makes you happy is the best kind to listen to, so go ahead and turn on Rock & Roll, Grunge, Heavy Metal or Classical…it’s your choice.
Medication does have a role in treating depression in people living with Fibromyalgia or other Invisible Illnesses. Only your doctor can know for sure if you require medication so it’s important you seek medical care if you are experiencing the symptoms of depression. The goal is to help you feel better and often a short course of medication might be an option in conjunction with one of the above treatment options as well.
As you can see, depression can wreak havoc on the body already plagued by Fibromyalgia. Don’t let it isolate you from your family and friends. If you’re experiencing signs of depression, seek help. The sooner you start, the better the chances are of decreasing your pain and suffering and getting you back on track to better health.
There is always hope