If you are suffering from fibromyalgia syndrome, you may have noticed that you feel a little more tense or anxious than before you were diagnosed. Of course, anxiety is a common problem that affects everyone at some point in their life, but it is particularly common amongst fibromyalgia sufferers. Anxiety can be especially frustrating for fibromyalgia patients because it often exacerbates symptoms and brings on symptom flares.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a term that describes those feelings of worry, fear, or apprehension that we experience when thinking about certain issues in our life. For instance, all of us are familiar with the terrible anxiety that comes before a big final exam or that all-important business presentation. This terrible sensation of fretfulness can cause us to experience headaches, sweating, even nausea. But for fibromyalgia patients, anxiety can make existing symptoms, like muscle pain and stiffness, even worse.
How Common is Anxiety?
Anxiety is actually a very common problem in today\’s society. It affects between 10% and 20% of the population, and severe anxiety disorders are thought to afflict approximately four million men and women in the United States alone. Anxiety tends to be more common in women than in men, however, the reason for this is unknown. Anxiety is also seen most commonly in people between the ages of 18 and 40.
Anxiety is very common amongst those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It often occurs in the months following diagnosis, and is thought to affect as many as 20% of fibromyalgia patients.
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety is thought to be the result of chemical changes in the body. Special chemicals found inside of the brain are responsible for governing mood and stress levels. Known as neurotransmitters, these chemicals (like serotonin) help to send messages to different receptors in the brain. These receptors than change the way we perceive and react to a situation. When levels of these neurotransmitters aren’t balanced properly, it can cause the body to experience feelings of anxiety.
Researchers aren’t sure why fibromyalgia patients suffer so much from anxiety, but it may have something to do with low levels of serotonin in the brain. Many fibromyalgia sufferers have low serotonin levels, and this could be responsible for the pain, depression, and anxiety that come along with fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Anxiety
If you are experiencing anxiety, you may find yourself worrying constantly about general issues in your life, including your work, your health, or your finances.
You may also find that you are overly anxious about simple daily responsibilities and duties. Many anxiety sufferers have the sensation that they are constantly “on edge.”
When you experience these feelings of anxiety you may also experience physical anxiety symptoms, including:
- muscle tension
- trembling or twitching
- sleep disturbances
- lack of concentration
When severe, anxiety can also manifest in the form of panic attacks. A panic attack (also known as an anxiety attack) is the sudden onset of intense feelings of fear and discomfort.
Panic attacks typically last for about ten minutes, and can appear out of the blue or in specific, anxiety-provoking situations. During a panic attack, you may experience the sudden need to escape or you might have fear that you are losing control.
Panic attacks are also accompanied by many of the following symptoms:
- excessive sweating
- shortness of breath
- heart palpitations
- tingling sensations
Effects of Anxiety on Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Anxiety can really have a negative impact on those suffering from fibromyalgia. If you are experiencing prolonged periods of anxiety, you may have noticed an increase in the severity of these fibromyalgia symptoms:
- migraine headaches
- widespread muscle pain
Studies performed on fibromyalgia patients with anxiety also show that anxiety tends to make the completion of physical tasks more difficult.