Unpacking the Connection: Is PTSD the Fibromyalgia of Mental Health?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fibromyalgia have long been seen as two completely separate conditions, but recent research has uncovered a possible connection between the two. PTSD is a mental health disorder caused by a traumatic event and is marked by flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance behavior, while fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread chronic pain and fatigue. But could it be that PTSD and fibromyalgia are two sides of the same coin? Could PTSD be the mental health equivalent of fibromyalgia? By looking at the similarities between the two conditions and the research into the possible connection between them, this article will attempt to answer this question.

Unpacking the Connection: Is PTSD the Fibromyalgia of Mental Health?

Overview of PTSD and Fibromyalgia

PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop after a person experiences or is exposed to a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, avoidance behavior, and difficulty sleeping. It can also lead to difficulties in relationships, social interactions, and work performance. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain in the muscles and joints as well as fatigue. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include cognitive difficulties, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. Both PTSD and fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose due to their overlapping symptoms.

Symptoms of PTSD and Fibromyalgia

Although PTSD and fibromyalgia are two distinct conditions, there is overlap in the symptoms they share. Research has found that both are associated with chronic pain, fatigue, impaired cognitive functioning, and difficulty sleeping. Additionally, both conditions have been linked to low serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood and emotions and it’s thought that its deficiency may contribute to the development of both PTSD and fibromyalgia. These similarities suggest that there may be some connection between the two conditions.

Causes of PTSD and Fibromyalgia

The causes of PTSD and fibromyalgia are similar in many ways. Both conditions are believed to be the result of an episode of extreme traumatic stress. This can be an event like a natural disaster, a car accident, or experiencing psychological or physical abuse. This extreme trauma can cause changes in the body’s hormones and chemistry that can lead to a chronic condition like PTSD or fibromyalgia. While more research is needed to understand this connection better, it seems that both conditions may have their roots in the same type of traumatic experience.

Commonalities between PTSD and Fibromyalgia

The most obvious similarity between PTSD and fibromyalgia is the pain associated with both conditions. People living with PTSD often experience physical pain, including headaches, stomachaches, and muscle aches, while those suffering from fibromyalgia experience chronic and widespread pain throughout their bodies. Both conditions are also associated with fatigue, sleep disturbances, and depression. Additionally, both PTSD and fibromyalgia can be triggered by trauma or stress. This is an important factor in understanding the possible connection between the two conditions. Research suggests that people with PTSD may be more prone to developing fibromyalgia due to their heightened sensitivity to pain. Studies have shown that those who experience traumatic events are more likely to develop chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia than those who don’t. This could mean that people with PTSD may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia due to their heightened sensitivity to pain caused by their disorder.

Research that links PTSD and Fibromyalgia

Recent research has highlighted a potential link between PTSD and fibromyalgia. One study, published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, looked at over 400 veterans with either PTSD or fibromyalgia and found that those with both conditions were more likely to report higher levels of pain than those who only had one condition. Another study, this one published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, also found that people with both PTSD and fibromyalgia reported more severe pain than those with just one condition. The findings from these studies suggest that there may be a relationship between PTSD and fibromyalgia, although further research is needed to better understand the connection between them.

Treatments for PTSD and Fibromyalgia

Both conditions are conventionally treated with medications, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, as well as psychotherapy. Additionally, both conditions respond well to alternative therapies like yoga, massage, supplementation and acupuncture.

Coping with PTSD and Fibromyalgia

The most obvious similarity between PTSD and fibromyalgia is that both involve chronic pain and fatigue. People with PTSD often suffer from physical pain due to the stress of reliving traumatic events, and people with fibromyalgia experience chronic pain in the muscles and joints. Additionally, both conditions can cause extreme fatigue, leading to a decrease in daily activities. It’s possible that these symptoms could be linked, as they are both caused by the body’s fight-or-flight response. The body releases hormones in response to a perceived threat, which can cause physical pain and fatigue.

Support for people with PTSD and Fibromyalgia

While the connection between PTSD and fibromyalgia is still being studied, there is evidence that people with both conditions have similar symptoms. For example, a study of patients with both PTSD and fibromyalgia found that they had higher levels of fatigue and reported more problems with physical functioning than those who only had PTSD. Additionally, research has shown that people with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop anxiety or depression than those without the condition, which could be linked to PTSD. Finally, studies suggest that people with PTSD may be more prone to developing chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia due to the impact of trauma on their nervous systems. These findings support the idea that PTSD could be seen as the mental health equivalent of fibromyalgia, in which an initial traumatic event leads to long-term physical and psychological issues.


PTSD and Fibromyalgia are complex medical conditions that can have a profound impact on an individual’s life. While there is still much to learn about the connection between these two conditions, the research that has been conducted shows that they share many commonalities. By understanding the similarities and differences, it is possible to develop better treatments and support systems for those who are suffering from these conditions. With the right treatment and a supportive network, individuals can find relief from the symptoms of both PTSD and Fibromyalgia.

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