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  • Writer's pictureMonica Pandey

Fibromyalgia: How Can a Psychologist Help?

Do you think you have Fibromyalgia? Have you been diagnosed with it? India’s National Health Portal states that Fibromyalgia is chronic neurological disorder that involves widespread pain, tenderness, fatigue, and other symptoms. The term fibromyalgia means pain in muscles and fibrous tissues (tendons and ligaments). It is common in middle-aged women but can affect patients of either sex and at any age, young and old alike. It affects 2-4 percent of the population. Now in percentage it may seem small, but just apply it to the large population of our country and you have a number that exceeds 2,760,008,770. Does that boggle you mind? More reason to know more about this invisible disease. There is no known cure for fibromyalgia. This article aims at enabling understanding of how a Psychologist can help make living with fibromyalgia easier.

There is not much of a support system that has been created for silent and often disillusioned, irritated and distraught patients of fibromyalgia. Indeed the diagnosis itself can be tricky and challenging. This population does not get any concessions in exams nor is there a bus seat reserved, even though standing without pain is difficult, at times. How then is the quality of life to be maintained?

Fibromyalgia costs academics, jobs, relationships, finances. It can even lead to an existential crisis. And no, it isn’t in your head! These feelings are normal in the experience of fibromyalgia. Denying these feelings can simply aggravate emotional distress and subsequently lead to depression and anxiety. A multi-modal approach is best known to yield results in the management of this condition. This approach is best available at a pain clinic, like Painacea, which provides systematic and personalized care through the integration of various therapies, including pharmacotherapy, along with physiotherapy, psychotherapy, yoga and so on. This is a holistic approach best known for success and in wide prevalence in advanced countries, while relatively still in the developing stage in countries like ours.

María José Lami (2013) conducted a study titled, “Systematic Review of Psychological Treatment in Fibromyalgia.” They found that better results were obtained when, along with pharmacology, patients received a combination of treatments such as relaxation, mind-body techniques. These are all psychological treatments. Relaxation therapy is a form of therapy that teaches a person to focus on specific muscles and learn self-relaxation by tensing and flexing them. Guided visual imagery may be combined or taught separately. Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT, is a therapy that is oriented towards changing thinking patterns. It is particularly known to address pain associated catastrophic thinking and is even known to decrease anxiety and depression, reduce fatigue and lead to improved sleep. Brain fog is a common condition associated with fibromyalgia, it basically refers to fatigues, pain and sleep caused cognitive impairment. A psychologist can help deal with all these, besides enabling improved management of mood and emotions. There are various ways in which this is accomplished. A psychologist ensures a tailored approach specific to the individual through custom-fit activities known to improve coping mechanisms and restructure belief systems.

While you consider and reflect upon this article and decide when to seek an appointment, here are some mental wellness quick tips for you to start practicing.

  1. Be in the present – As each day with FMS can be a challenge, mindfulness, or the practice of taking each day as it comes is an important technique this helps a person to focus on the present, and live each day to its fullest.

  2. Create a schedule – It is already established that FMS impairs life. Charting out a schedule gives a semblance of structure to the day, and helps establish a routine.

  3. Journal – Writing a diary helps channelize feelings onto paper. This is effective is getting things off one’s mind and feeling lighter. It helps to record and process feelings and experiences.

  4. Reframe thoughts – Remember, one negative thought follows another. So arrest the first one itself. Develop positive thoughts, which enable subsequent positive thoughts.

  5. Establish a sleep routine – Just like a baby responds to a sleep routine, adults do too. So establish a routine for yourself which includes a clear winding down activity so that the body understands to shut down and switch off.

Try these easy tips. Also remember, it is perfectly fine to seek help. Struggling in silence is only a cultural response. It is better to allow professionals to assist. There is no shame or stigma in it. So why suffer in silence? REACH OUT!

I leave you with that thought and welcome your comments on the same.

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