The Sexual Abuse Question

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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.

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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.


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I talk to and see a group called "SASS" in Oregon,and a lot of those working there (it is a counseling organization for sexual abuse and sexual assault victims) do feel there is a big connection between past sexual abuse and/or assault, and fibromyalgia. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse,and so was my sister; we both have fibromyalgia.Her fibro happened as a young adult,but I didn't get it until I was much older.Even her best friend, I finally found out,had sexual abuse,and she had fibro. One of the common links seems to be ANGER AND PAIN..I get extreme pain, and then I find, its EXTREME ANGER, and severe emotional pain. No one in any of the groups will talk about this,i notice. SEVERE DEPRESSION can cause all kinds of disease, auto-immune, and we think fibro is key to these.I noticed when my sister had fibro so badly, as a young adult, she was so unconscious of old anger and never expressed rage or sadness; it all became physical pain to her.And she never remembered any of it.(To this day, I know about it, but she really supresses all memory.I saw it happen though.) So severe depression can make you physically ill.The reason some folks get pain relief with fibro on taking antidepressants, is the pain may be lifted off their nueral consciousness.Some of those drugs manufacture more and new brain cells..They know now that clinical depression is a physical illness.--it can cause you physical pain! So it stands to reason, the damage to your brain can cause physical pain. I am trying to find studies which find common pasts in fibro patients, but all they ever do is list symptoms. But symptoms are the RESULT of damage--the PAST tells us if all we fibro patients have a common link or two!!! Early on, one researcher said, they think fibro pain signals pain in the brain, that is incorrectly saying the body is damaged. ---in other words, our BRAINS are very likely damaged! its the one common thread I read in everyone here--pain with no damage in the body!! Doctors can't FIND a damaged muscle,skin, arm, ect. But your brain is signaling pain!! It may be the real culprit of fibro is a type of brain damage!! no wonder the docs can't see it in your body---maybe all that fibro pain is UPSTAIRS in brain damage!!
i was never abused by anyone thank God. but i do have fibro. i have had other depressions but not sexual or physical abuse at all.
I am a survivor of childhood/teen/adulthood abuse(s) of many different kinds and I really do think that there is a link between Fibro and abuse. At least, in the severity of symptoms. Most of the survivors of abuse that I know (which is many) have Fibro. Thanks for sharing this.