The affects of the Fibromyalgia are very evident today, or is it PTSD causing the symptoms? My head is swimming like I've had three pints of strong lager, my joints ache like I've run a marathon, my emotions are out of control, there's a ball of utter panic in my chest pulsating its evil to the whole of my body. Breathing is laboured and the feeling of dread is looming large...
This week has been tough, Baby Bear away in London with the school has stupidly after recent events up there meant her safety has been playing on my mind.
Today I'd promised to drive to meet with someone but after a massive panic attack this morning I have had to pull out. This makes me feel so weak and pathetic. Self loathing floods every fibre, as I now realise how insipid I am and its heart breaking.
I used to be a strong, confident career woman. I used to meet new situations head on. I had nerves yes, but I could always lock those feelings in a cupboard and get on with it. Gradually though as depression takes hold, just like blasted bindweed, it chokes the confidence out of you, eventually totally masking your old self. It happens so gradually you'll be half gone before you know it.
I spent so many months and years trying to cover it up, pretending I was fine that by the time I finally acknowledged it I was already a shadow of my former self.
I feel so physically overwhelmed by my symptoms today it's like I've been poisoned, but I suppose in an odd way I have.
Yesterday on twitter there was some suggestion that PTSD could be linked to Fibromyalgia or even that the diagnosis should be PTSD and not Fibromyalgia? So I had a dig about on the internet.
What is PTSD?Post-traumatic stress disorder has only been recently recognized as a mental illness. It is not like depression or schizophrenia as it is wholly accepted that the reasons for developing the illness are external. Exposure to trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
That trauma may come on the battlefield, in an abusive relationship, a bad employment position and so on – in other words, as it is now recognized that a huge component of post-traumatic stress disorder originates in the body’s stress reaction in response to a stimulus the trauma that can cause it is seen as anything.
Every person has a different capacity for stress and will respond to varying trauma differently too. In PTSD, the person exists in a constant state of hyper-vigilance that results in an imbalance in stress hormones and cortisol levels in the body. They may be subject to flashbacks, nightmare or general anxiety as a result of the initiating event.
Who is at risk?Any one from a young child to a senior adult can develop PTSD. It is not uncommon for people to develop and recover from PTSD, but this then puts them at a higher risk of developing the disorder in response to a new event.
Anyone suffering a trauma – such as a traumatic event, surgery, illness or high levels of stress is also at risk. As are persons who live with chronic pain or who have an impaired immune system.
Those in high stress and high emotion environments are also considered to be at risk. The new diagnostic criteria now recognizes that there are several levels of post-traumatic stress disorder and offers appropriate treatments for each level of severity.
What is fibromyalgia?Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that is characterized by a cluster of symptoms. The most common are chronic pain, stiffness, brain fog, depression and disturbed sleep. There is no specific known cause or cure for fibromyalgia, but there are very many treatments that have shown to be effective in controlling symptoms.
Fibromyalgia often sets the stage for other disorders to occur because of how the immune system is affected. Irritable bowel syndrome and migraine syndromes are common as well. There are now tests that can help determine if you are suffering from fibromyalgia.
Who is at risk?Originally considered a woman’s disease, there is more awareness now that men develop fibromyalgia as well. It can come on any time after the 18th year, but children have been diagnosed with it as well. The suspected causes of fibromyalgia are many.
There may be a gene component, which means if someone in your family has the disease you are at a higher risk. Traumatic brain injury has been related to it, as has major illness, disease and surgery. Emotional and mental trauma is also thought to play a key role in activating fibromyalgia in the body too.
Which is the cause of what?As more is becoming known about how fibromyalgia affects your sympathetic nervous system, the easier it is to see how it relates to post traumatic stress disorder. It isn’t so much that one will cause the other, but that the presence of one may increase the risk of the other.
The action of PTSD on the immune system may very well set up the environment that welcomes fibromyalgia. Vice versa, fibromyalgia may create an amplified body syndrome that can then escalate into post-traumatic stress disorder given the right circumstances.
If you look at each disorder separately and then compare their common recommended treatments, you can see that there is a great deal of overlap. Both are treated with anti-depressants to help control serotonin levels in the body, and they may also be treated with anti-anxiety agents.
Both also recommend life style changes as a long term management system such as diet, exercise, meditation and other habits.
The problem with post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia is that there symptoms are very similar. They are different in a very important way though – which is that the post-traumatic psychiatric effect which can lead to flashbacks and anxiety.