The Sexual Abuse Question
One of the favorite topics in relation to fibromyalgia is whether there is a mind/body connection between the disease and the mental state. Some fibromyalgia sufferers are incensed by the idea that the disease could have a basis in early psychological damage and refuse to countenance the idea, but some statistics do suggest a link between fibromyalgia and a history of past sexual or physical abuse. Good science insists on proper studies conducted by serious researchers and there has been some attempt to cover the subject.
Of particular interest is a study performed in Birmingham, Alabama which suggested that people with fibromyalgia were statistically more likely to have had a history of past sexual or physical abuse, though other studies seemed to disprove these results. The results of a study published by the American College of Rheumatology in its journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism showed that 65% of female fibromyalgia patients reported past sexual abuse as compared to 52% of the healthy control participants. This study found that the fibromyalgia patients with a history of abuse reported more symptoms than those fibromyalgia patients without this childhood history. The researchers felt that the study proved only that a history of abuse brought on a greater severity in the symptoms of fibromyalgia though such abuse didn’t appear to be the cause of the syndrome itself.
Another study whose results were published in this same journal found that 37% of the fibromyalgia patients had been victims of childhood sexual abuse as compared to 22% of the control participants who were female and suffered from other rheumatologic diseases. This study found that a link is suggested between childhood sexual abuse and fibromyalgia, however; the connection is to the severity of the abuse, for instance, multiple events of such abuse, rather than to the abuse as a causal factor in the severity of symptoms suffered by the patients.
The wide disparity between the statistics reported in these studies as well as the results imply that the sampling of participants may not be wide enough or that the diagnostics need to be more uniform to obtain the most exact results. In any event, it is becoming clearer that there is a connection between a painful childhood history and the onset of fibromyalgia, though whether this speaks to the severity of the symptoms, the severity of the past abuse, or only to the onset of the disease itself remains to be seen.
Fibromyalgia patients with a history of such past abuse would do well to discuss this with their care providers. Therapy is always recommended as a remedy for abuse, and fibromyalgia patients are no exception to the rule. No one can say for sure, but it makes sense that dealing with the aftermath of such abuse just may help fibromyalgia patients obtain a better quality of life.