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Study Suggests Fibromyalgia Patients May Have Greater Risk of Self-Harm

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

What’s new: A new peer-reviewed study published early in the journal Arthritis Care & Research looked at the connection between self-harm and several rheumatological conditions. The results suggest that people with fibromyalgia are at a higher risk of self-harm while those who live with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis also have a higher risk.

  • Researchers investigated rates of self-harm among those diagnosed with fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis using data previously collected from patients in the U.K.
  • Those with fibromyalgia were twice as likely to self-harm compared to those without the condition, while there was a significant but lower association of self-harm in those diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis
  • There was no connection between self-harm risk and ankylosing spondylitis in this study
  • It’s important to note that there are often many factors that lead to self-harm, which this study didn’t take into account

Physicians need to be aware of the potential for self-harm in patients with rheumatological conditions, especially fibromyalgia, and offer appropriate support and management. — Sarfaroj Khan, Medscape 

The Frontlines: Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes widespread muscle pain and fatigue, among other symptoms, and it’s often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or dismissed by medical professionals.

  • There is no laboratory test to diagnose fibromyalgia, which can lead to many patients being misdiagnosed or having their symptoms labeled as “all in their head”
  • Fibromyalgia most commonly affects women, with the risk being twice as high as it is for men
  • Adults with fibromyalgia are over three times more likely to have clinical depression than adults without fibromyalgia. Depression also has a high association with self-injury
  • There’s also a significant overlap between experiencing trauma and fibromyalgia — trauma is believed to be one of the things that can trigger the illness. Keep in mind, not everyone with fibromyalgia has experienced trauma


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A Mighty Voice: The Mighty’s associate editor, Veronica Vivona, shared her experience living with fibromyalgia. “There can be doctors who don’t take your symptoms seriously. Due to all this white noise, you might feel like you aren’t truly being seen.” You can submit your first person story, too.

From Our Community:

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Other things to know: Self-harm is the act of intentionally damaging body tissue without intending to die by suicide. Many use it as a coping skill as difficult feelings and situations arise. Here are some useful resources regarding self-harm:

Where to learn more: If you’re struggling with self-harm, know you’re not alone and help is available. For resources that can help you use new coping skills, find help and more, check out the resources here. To learn more about fibromyalgia, head here.

Header image via Chad Madden on Unsplash

Originally published: June 30, 2020
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