Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Fibromyalgia is an illness that causes widespread pain, chronic fatigue, and sleep disorders, among other symptoms. Many sufferers spend years searching for a treatment that will ease their pain and once again allow them to fully enjoy their lives. Cognitive behavior therapy is a psychological treatment that has proven very effective in managing the chronic pain of fibromyalgia without medication.

What is Cognitive Behavior Therapy?
Cognitive behavior therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how you feel and what you do. Cognitive behavior therapy combines cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy works to modify or eliminate the effect that thought patterns have on your symptoms; behavioral therapy aims to help you change behaviors that may contribute to your symptoms.

The Brain and Behavior
According to the National Association of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, it is our thought patterns that cause us to feel and act in certain ways. Thus, if we are going through stressful situations or participating in destructive behaviors, it is vital to identify the importance that the mind has in causing those feelings and behaviors. By identifying destructive thoughts, you can learn how to replace them with thoughts that lead to more desirable reactions.

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are often exacerbated by feelings of stress and other negative emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help to pinpoint these emotions and teach you how to deal with them in a way that won’t cause symptom flare-ups. This form of therapy can also teach you how to modify or change certain behaviors to help reduce the severity of your pain and fatigue.

What Happens During a Cognitive Behavior Therapy Session?
Cognitive behavior therapy sessions typically last about an hour. To see results, it is recommended that fibromyalgia patients attend between 6 and 20 of these sessions. Each psychotherapist will have her own cognitive behavior therapy techniques, but outcomes should be the same. During a session, a psychotherapist will talk with you about the symptoms you have been experiencing. She will also discuss your emotions, feelings, and attitudes about dealing with fibromyalgia syndrome. Together, you will look for connections between your emotions and symptoms, and look for ways to deal with your emotions in a method that won’t exacerbate your symptoms.

A typical session may include some of the following:


  • learning to challenge negative beliefs
  • learning to set limits on your responsibilities
  • focusing on prioritizing activities
  • accepting relapses


Effects of Cognitive Behavior Therapy on Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Cognitive behavior therapy is thought to relieve symptoms of pain and fatigue in 25% of fibromyalgia patients. Cognitive-behavior therapy has been proven effective for reducing sleep disturbances perpetuated by underlying factors common among fibromyalgia sufferers including: conditioned bedtime arousal, erratic sleep/wake scheduling, and spending too much time in bed. Cognitive behavior therapy also works well to relieve muscle pain and stiffness.

Proven Results
The effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy in treating fibromyalgia has been shown in numerous studies. One study provided fibromyalgia patients with 8 weeks of cognitive behavior therapy. After 8, one-hour sessions, all of the participants in the study reported less pain, sleeplessness and fatigue. Many also reported an increase in mood after just 8 weeks.

Combining cognitive-behavior therapy with other treatment options, such as physical fitness training, may be even more effective. A recent study showed that fibromyalgia sufferers showed much less impairment in their daily lives after a taking part in a program that combined behavior strategies, physical exercise, relaxation, and information about chronic pain.


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