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How Fibromyalgia & Depression Are Connected

Living with fibromyalgia can be a daily struggle. Coping with constant chronic pain and incapacitating fatigue can cause anxiety leaving sufferers feeling isolated and withdrawn.

 

People with fibromyalgia often experience lower levels of hormones, such as serotonin, which is linked to feelings of low mood. As a result, they can experience severe depression alongside their illness. In this blog, we look at the importance of recognising the symptoms of depression and a landmark report that says it is far more prevalent than many of us realise. Read on to find out more.

When life is a daily battle against distressing health issues, unhappiness is a normal reaction. Depression, however, surpasses sadness. Depression can leave sufferers feeling overwhelmed by despair, making fibromyalgia even more difficult to deal with.

Depression is common with all types of long-term pain, however, there is a recognised link between depression and the acute pain of fibromyalgia. Doctors know that the stress of living with unending throbbing or stabbing pain, as well as relentless fatigue, can put a person into what is termed “overload”.

Evidence indicates that the prevalence of major depression in people with chronic pain is three to four times greater than in the general population. Some people with fibromyalgia and long-term pain may be aware they are depressed. Others may not be sure. Nevertheless, they know something is wrong.

People who are depressed commonly experience some, or all, of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of interest in nearly all activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lack of energy and overwhelming tiredness
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness or irritability
  • A sense of worthlessness
  • Uncontrollable tearfulness or anger

These thoughts, physical changes and feelings interfere dramatically with daily life. In severe cases, depression with long-term pain can lead to thoughts of death or suicide.

Medication can be prescribed to help ease these distressing symptoms. Antidepressants commonly used to treat depression have also been shown to be helpful in easing some fibromyalgia symptoms, as they boost the levels of certain chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain, also known as neurotransmitters.

Low levels of neurotransmitters may be a factor in fibromyalgia, and it is believed that increasing their levels may ease the widespread pain associated with the condition.

A recent landmark study published in The Lancet found that antidepressants are effective and more people should be taking them. Researchers from Oxford University analysed data from 522 separate trials involving 116,000 patients suffering from moderate to severe depression. Each of the 21 medicines tested performed better than a placebo, some with greater results than others.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Taking antidepressants is frequently portrayed as a negative thing or something done only when other therapies are not available or have failed. This research should reassure patients who are taking or contemplating commencing antidepressants, and the doctors that prescribe them, that they are an effective treatment.”

The top five performing antidepressants – % better than placebo (and number of NHS prescriptions in 2016) are named in the report as:

  1. Amitriptyline, 113% (12.9m) – best known under the brand name Elavil.
  2. Mirtazapine, 89% (7.5m) – best known under the brand Remeron.
  3. Duloxetine, 85% (1.8m) – best known under the brand name Cymbalta, also used to treat fibromyalgia.
  4. Venlafaxine, 78% (3.9m) – best known under the brand name Effexor.
  5. Paroxetine, 75% (1.4m) – best known under the brand name Seroxat.

The overwhelmingly positive news to come out of the report is that depression can be managed successfully. The most important first step is to openly discuss any symptoms you have with your GP.
Here at Brian Barr, we are not medical experts, however, we are leading fibromyalgia solicitors. If you believe your condition has been caused as the result of an accident that was not your fault, we can help you to claim compensation. If you would like to speak with one of our expert team about claiming compensation, call us for free on 0808 123 0003 or click here to fill in our online contact form.

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