Getting diagnosed with fibromyalgia may be the first hurdle patients have to overcome, but it is not the last. According to a broad study of fibromyalgia sufferers in the United States and Denmark, individuals with fibromyalgia have a higher risk of suicide and depression as well.
They compared these results to patients with just typical lower back pain, and the odds ratios were 26.9 for back pain patients and 48.0 for people with fibromyalgia. Although this still means that only a portion of people with fibromyalgia may develop suicide ideation or attempt suicide, it still indicates the extreme pain and intensity of the disease.
Why Does This Occur?
There are many possible reasons for suicide to be higher among fibromyalgia patients. Basically, this disease often has a co-morbidity. It is likely to occur along with other issues like depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome. These co-morbidities are diagnosed separately, but they are more common among people with fibromyalgia.
Depression, in particular, is likely to increase the risk of suicide or suicidal ideation. Despite this normal correlation between depression and suicide, a Danish study showed that the increase in suicide occurred among people who did not have a previous medical history of depression.
Over time, the stress of dealing with the pain of fibromyalgia can cause anxiety. The individual may become socially isolated as fatigue sets in. As a result of the pain, the fibromyalgia sufferer may stop being as active. By becoming withdrawn from the world, the individual is more likely to develop conditions like anxiety and depression. When all of these symptoms end up occurring at the same time, it greatly increases someone’s chances of becoming suicidal.
Accidental Death or Suicide?
Previous studies have shown that fibromyalgia patients are more likely to have an accidental death like a car accident. The new studies about fibromyalgia and suicide seem to suggest that these accidental deaths could at least partially be due to the higher suicide risk among fibromyalgia patients.
Since accidental deaths, liver disease, suicide, and cerebrovascular disease are more likely among fibromyalgia patients, physicians should check any fibromyalgia patients for these issues when they visit the doctor.
Depression and Fibromyalgia
Depending on the study, individuals with fibromyalgia are three times as likely to have depression or more. They are also up to ten times more likely to commit suicide. Researchers believe that depression is caused by a change in the way the mind works. Once the chemistry of the mind changes, the individual may feel depressed or anxious.
Researchers also think that depression may be connected to the sympathetic nervous system. Since the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for how people handle stress and fight-or-flight situations, it can cause significant problems when overactive. When the nervous system starts to become overactive, it can cause increased pain, depression or suicidal ideation.
Looking for Symptoms
The main way to prevent suicide among people with fibromyalgia is by being proactive. When someone starts to become depressed, they may suddenly lose interest in their favorite pastimes, feel guilty or suffer from a general sense of worthlessness. Physically, they may have lower energy levels and sudden changes in their weight. Thinking or fantasizing about death is a key thing to watch out for.
Any signs of depression or interest in death should immediately be reported to a physician. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 20 percent of fibromyalgia patients suffer from anxiety or depression, so these individuals should be mindful of any sudden change in their attitude and behavior.
Treating Fibromyalgia Is the First Step Toward Preventing Suicide
When fibromyalgia is not treated, the individual may fall into a downward spiral of pain, depression, and fatigue. The pain of this disease causes people to limit the activities and exercise that they do on a daily basis. As this downward spiral continues, the individual may feel isolated from the outside world, suspicious, lonely or anxious.
Other than the obvious medical concerns of undiagnosed fibromyalgia, individuals also have to worry about their jobs. Fatigue and concentration difficulties can make mistakes at work more likely, and sick days often increase. Unfortunately, this makes a job loss more likely, which can increase stress.
Since stress causes symptoms of fibromyalgia to heighten, this entire downward spiral renews with a vengeance. In general, individuals who wait longer to get their pain treated are more likely to deal with stress-related symptoms.
Reducing the Risk of Suicide and Decreasing Pain Levels
Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk of suicide and pain. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are ways to mitigate some of the symptoms. When it comes to depression and suicide, doctors will often recommend taking antidepressants or talking to a therapist. Joining a support group of fibromyalgia patients can help you to reduce the sensation of isolation and loneliness.
Since the chronic pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia help to fuel depression, you should work on treating these symptoms as well. A lack of sleep is correlated to increase pain levels, so getting a better quality of sleep is one of the first steps.
Additionally, a Harvard Medical School study showed that strength training, stretching, and aerobics were able to improve the physical and mental health of female fibromyalgia patients over the course of four months.
Alternative Treatment Options
When someone has lost the will to live, getting up the energy or interest in exploring the outside world is a monumental task. Small steps need to be taken to resume a normal life. Some alternative treatments like deep tissue massage, acupuncture, and Tai Chi have had some success in treating depression and fibromyalgia.
Acupuncture has been shown to decrease pain levels over time, so it is an excellent choice for pain sufferers. Likewise, deep tissue massage may help to reduce pain and lower stress levels.
Tai Chi is also an excellent alternative treatment for several reasons. It allows the individual to get out of the house and socialize with other people. Since it has a very low impact on the joints and muscles, it is also a way to exercise that does not hurt the body. Over time, lowered obesity and exercise can reduce some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. In the meanwhile, the endorphins produced from exercising are a natural way to reduce stress and depression.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “Fibromyalgia.” http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/fibromyalgia
Boriginia, Mark. “Fibromyalgia and Death.” Psychology Today. January 2011. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-pain/201101/fibromyalgia-and-death
Dreyer, Lene; Kendall, Sally; Danneskiold-Samsoe, Bente; Bartels, Else Marie; and Bleddal, Henning. “Mortality in Cohort of Patients with Fibromyalgia: Increased Frequency of Suicide.” Arthritis and Rheumatology. Vol. 62, Issue 10. October 2010. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.27623/full
Jimenez-Rodriguez, Irene; et, al. “Suicidal Ideation and the Risk of Suicide in Patients With Fibromyalgia.” Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment. Vol. 2014:10. April 2014. http://www.dovepress.com/suicidal-ideation-and-the-risk-of-suicide-in-patients-with-fibromyalgi-peer-reviewed-article-NDT
The more I read up on this condition the more serious it becomes. It’s horrible to have someone you love going through this pain, but the more informed you become the better equipped you are to deal with side effects or more serious issues like this one.
This disease is so all encompassing, so total in its effects on body, mind, emotions, functionality, relationships…
I always say that I do not think of myself as suicidal, as I do not want to die. I just don’t want to exist this way any longer.
I want a life…as in living. The darkness of depression is oppressive. It is only broken by the overbearing stranglehold of physical pain and anxiety.
To get through the fog, the pain, and to fight my way back from the edge if despair is to bring a glimmer of hope…optimism even.
When the veil of darkness cloaks itself around me, once again, I fight to recall those moments of glorious hope. They become my anchor to remain here…to fight for my life.
Just because I’m in severe agonizing pain does not mean I’m depressed. I want to live.. I have goals, dreams and people I love dearly. I have everything to live for. My problem is my pain is a f…ing 14 most of the time…even with pain meds. My pain is so high I want to blow my brains out just to get relief. A horse in pain would be put down. I want to live but my pain makes me desire to die.
I too had a nervous breakdown when trying to wean off of Cymbalta! I was hospitalized for 8 days. I still struggle everyday, and lately I want to end it all. But I have my children & my husband who work so hard at making me continue to live, I feel sorry for them, they shouldn’t have to help me stay alive. But getting no relief from all of my symptoms and not finding a doctor who cares enough to treat me is so frustrating! I know I’m not alone, as so many people are going through exactly what I am going through. So all I can do is pray to stay alive and that someday there will be an answer to this severe debilitating disease! Praying for all suffering u relenting pain.
I have been in so much pain now for years with stomach problems and all over body pain it feels like it’s in my bones i get really bad muscle cramps in legs and sciatic nerve pain my bones in my hands hurt some times where I can’t open up pill bottles and I’m only 33 years old I have other symptoms too I started going to rheumatoid arthritis doctor I had her do a lupus panel to make sure it came back negative but the markers for drug-induced for a little high so of course she thinks I have fibromyalgia but I’m not for sure still so she put me on Lyrica and that’s all we want to let her put me on because the other ones have antidepressants in them and there are only three medications that treat fibromyalgia and two of them have antidepressants in them does Lyrica ended up giving me really bad back spasms and I took myself off and I told her and then she told me to start taking my Gabapentin again and because my hand started swelling and not because of the Lyrica she’s testing me now for rheumatoid arthritis and take X-rays of my hands but it comes down to probably I have fibromyalgia the pain is so bad that I can’t sleep most nights I wake up tired I feel like my brain doesn’t function anymore sometimes I can’t think of the words that I want to say it sucks to be 33 years old and I can’t dress myself sometimes and I sit on the edge of the bed crying with my boyfriend asking me what’s wrong or trying to help me and I yell at him to get away from me and he doesn’t understand and I thought about killing myself a couple times and I understand why now it’s because the pain is so bad that you don’t want to live with the pain and no matter how much medication you take it does it help or helps for a little bit but then the pain comes back and sometimes the pain is more intense and you just want the pain to go away and the doctors don’t understand that in the recycle if you exercise and move it’ll help but they don’t understand that when you move it hurts it hurts to move it hurts to get up and they’re not understanding that I wish I could find one rheumatoid arthritis that has problem out and then they would understand that getting up hurts moving hurts
Me. I want to die, every minute of every day . My family is worth living for. But zi am tired. Tired of pain. Tired of pills. Tired of being an excuse. Tired of being lied to. Tired of being disrespected. He never took me anywhere I wanted to go, never treated me the way I wish to be treated. Girls like little surprises in little blue boxes for no reason at all.
Pain pills are hard to come by. I wish Drs took us more seriously. We are not here to run a local drug ring .
I have fibro. I’m 35 and I do want to die now. I’ve moved up to 200mg pregabalin (lyrica) but it hasn’t worked so far. Maybe I will end my life. Fibromylagia impacts on my family too, it causes them worry and stress because I can’t deal with the pain. They don’t really understand. I don’t want to make it to my birthday. I’m tired. I have insomnia and other times I just can’t stay awake, I wake and I’m still tired. What a live we live. Sorry out there to everybody that has these bunch of symptoms that they call fibromylagia.