Healthy Living

Possible Link Between Fibromyalgia and PTSD

Is There a Link Between Fibromyalgia and PTSD?

During the turbulent times we are living in, we frequently hear about PTSD and the struggles of those who suffer from it. Many people are prone to PTSD, including war veterans and survivors of domestic violence.

PTSD is a disorder that develops after a person has been exposed, either as a victim or a witness, to a traumatic event of any kind — fighting in war, refugee crisis, assault, a motor vehicle accident etc.

During times of acute stress, our bodies mobilize defending mechanisms via the “fight or flight” response. It is during these times that a person might experience an adrenaline rush. In PTSD, these metabolic responses last longer than usual, leading to an overproduction of stress hormones and cortisol levels. Therefore, if more than a month has passed after a traumatic event and a person experiences symptoms such as constantly thinking about the event, reliving the traumatic moment, nightmares, sleep disorders, or emotional numbness or anxiety, there is a possibility that PTSD has developed. In general, the management of PTSD includes medications and counseling.

Although symptoms of both conditions might seem similar, an experienced physician will be able to tell the difference. However, new evidence suggests that there is a link between FM and PTSD.

As previously mentioned, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) that controls the “fight or flight” response is affected in patients with FM. In PTSD, the overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol is obvious. Therefore, it is possible that those with FM will have increased risk of PTSD and vice versa, since both disorders involve the SNS. In addition, in both conditions there is an imbalance of serotonin. This can be fixed through antidepressant medications or through lifestyle changes, including exercise and healthy diet. Ultimately, FM and PTSD overlap in many segments, but further research is needed to determine if one may actually cause the other.