Over 60% of all persons diagnosed with fibromyalgia already suffer from depression. An equally high amount of people with fibromyalgia then go on to develop depression.
Science has been trying to isolate the prominence of depression with fibromyalgia as their connection may reveal much that will help in treating both diseases.
Which comes first? Depression or Fibromyalgia?
Given the high rate of depression with fibromyalgia, it can be a puzzle as to which one came first.
More studies have detected neurochemical imbalances with fibromyalgia that mimic the same imbalances present in those with only depression.
Yet not everyone with depression gets fibromyalgia or vice versa. There are some things that will increase your risk.
Things that can increase your risk for depression
The list of things that can increase your risk for depression is almost identical to those that will increase your risk for fibromyalgia.
PTSD, major trauma or high stress can be a contributing factor. Chronic illness, pain or major disease is another. There may also be a hereditary component and there is a proven environmental one too.
Anything that causes you to become socially isolated can contribute, as can anything that creates a compromised immune system. Just as with fibromyalgia traumatic brain injury can also create depression too.
The brain chemical connection
Fibromyalgia and depression go together so well because of both cause dysregulation in serotonin, norepinephrine and the cortisol hormone. This is why it can be so hard to untangle whether or not one causes the other.
It is now known that both increase the risk of developing the other compatible condition. One other aspect of fibromyalgia is that the very nature of having a chronic pain illness can create an environment that is ripe for the development of a major depressive episode.
Episodes can then develop into a full disorder because the brain chemical balance is altered with each episode experienced.
This is why people who may have not had depression all of their life may develop it after developing fibromyalgia.
It is also why medication and lifestyle changes, along with several alternative treatments can be so effective in preventing or controlling depression with fibromyalgia.
If you can counteract the brain chemical imbalance, the depression may remain present – but not grow in severity.
Why you may be treated for depression before you are diagnosed with it
One thing that can bother some people is being prescribed an anti-depressant when they only have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. While about 60% of all people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia also have or develop depression, not everyone will.
Being prescribed an anti-depressant isn’t a case of your doctor overprescribing “just in case,” certain types of anti-depressants have been shown to be very effective in the relief of chronic pain.
The most common types prescribed are SNRIs. These work on the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine that are also a part of how your brain sends and receives the pain message.
The more common anti-depressants that are prescribed just for depression are MAOIs. These types of medications are effective with depression but not chronic pain relief.
Decreasing your stress helps
A must for dealing with depression and fibromyalgia is learning to manage stress. Stress has been linked to the development of fibromyalgia, and it is linked to flare-ups too. Stress is also considered to be a huge trigger for depression.
If you have depression and fibromyalgia, managing stress must be a priority. Stress can be managed through the use of therapies such a meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, brain entrainment, biofeedback, and diet.
It isn’t just about avoiding stressful situations because even the best things in life (such as love or a great promotion) create a type of positive stress that has the same effect on the body as negative stress.
Being mindful of anxiety is important
Another well-known issue is that of fibromyalgia and the struggle with anxiety. Anxiety is not always a part of a developing problem with depression but is very much tied to the stress levels that having a chronic pain condition can create.
You can become more and more anxious about potential pain flare-ups to the point that you begin to withdraw and stop doing the things that improve the quality of your life. That can open the door to depression.
Anxiety is common also as a side effect in many of the pain medications that are used to treat fibromyalgia.
You should discuss any anxiety you experience with your doctor first to make sure it is not medication related before treating the anxiety as a separate disorder.
Look to all the changes you can make to avoid a major depressive episode
There are a lot of factors that can influence the development of depression, and how well you can manage it.
Foremost is paying attention to your diet, exercise, and social activities. One of the known factors in all types of depression is social withdrawal. Being active socially can stimulate endorphins and help the body to manage different hormone levels.
Also, what many people don’t know is that one of the reasons that daily exercise is recommended is it helps the body to utilize medications and promotes better urea cycle cleansing, which means that the PH levels in muscle tissue are better managed and work to reduce your pain.
It doesn’t just reduce your pain, but can also influence the hormonal factors that influence depressive episodes as well.
Always remember this
Always remember that although there is a high prominence of depression with fibromyalgia, there is not a guarantee that you will develop a major depressive disorder.
It can be very helpful to see a counselor who specializes in chronic pain, as they can help you navigate all the changes in your life without feeling like you are being overwhelmed or swept away.
Many of the new medications for depression that are available also come with little to no side effects, so don’t hesitate to try one if you and your doctor feel that it may alleviate your depression.