Harvard Mental Health Letter

Treating fibromyalgia in the mental health setting

Patients with this chronic pain syndrome often also suffer from anxiety or depression.

About 2% of Americans — more women than men — suffer from fibromyalgia. Primarily a chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia may also cause sleep disturbances, thinking difficulties, and fatigue. Although it is classified as an inflammatory disorder of the musculoskeletal system, evidence is growing that fibromyalgia may be a disorder of the central nervous system.

Bolstering this view is the fact that patients with fibromyalgia often suffer from anxiety or depression. And some patients who suffer only from a psychiatric disorder may develop somatic symptoms that mimic fibromyalgia — yet the primary challenge is a mental health problem, and symptoms will abate only when it is addressed. For all these reasons, the best treatment involves a team approach that includes mental health clinicians.

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