Fibromyalgia and Anxiety Form a Dastardly duo

Fear of flying woman in plane airsick with stress headache and motion sickness or airsickness. Person in airplane with aerophobia scared of flying being afraid while sitting in airplane seat

Image: Maridav/Shutterstock

Fibromyalgia and anxiety go together like root beer and vanilla ice cream. According to some studies, 20% of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are also diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Fibro cause pain. It causes fatigue. Sleeplessness. Headaches. Cognitive impairments. Now we can add panic attacks.

Which comes first, the fibromyalgia or anxiety?

Fibromyalgia and anxiety are thought to work like this: the anxiety may feel like physical symptoms, which gets you thinking about your condition and wondering if it’s getting worse, and this in turn makes you anxious, and then the whole thing spins around and around in a vicious cycle. In fact you may be left wondering whether the fibromyalgia is causing the anxiety or if the anxiety is causing the fibromyalgia.

There are number of treatments that can help you manage your anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation is a good way of reducing anxiety. Mindfulness helps to calm your thoughts and reduce stress, which in turn will reduce anxiety.

Therapy is also helpful in managing anxiety. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) works to change negative and pessimistic thoughts, including self-defeating behaviors. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was originally designed to treat distress due to traumatic memories, such as that associated with PTSD, but has shown promise in helping reduce fibromyalgia symptons.

Medications, such as anti-depressants in the SSRI category can help manage your anxiety. Anticonvulsants such as gabapentin, and beta blockers can help with mild social anxiety. These drugs need to be taken daily as prescribed by your physician. For acute anxiety attacks, benzodiazepines such alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan) can provide immediate relief.

How do I know if I have anxiety?

There are number of tests you can take online, but you’ll really want to speak with your medical professional. They’re well trained in these issues and at the very least will be able to refer you to a someone who can help. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has a database of therapists, so you can search for one near you.

What is your experience with anxiety or panic attacks with your fibromyalgia? How do you deal with it? Share your story with us in the comments.