Objectives: Fibromyalgia (FM) is defined as a severe, chronic, non-articular rheumatic condition characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, hyperalgesia and generalised tender points, in the absence of inflammatory or structural musculoskeletal abnormalities. Pain is the predominant symptom, allodynia and hyperalgesia are common signs. Extreme fatigue, impaired cognition and non-restorative sleeping difficulties coexist in addition to other somatic symptoms. Several studies suggest there is a meaningful relationship between FM and the psychological symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental disorder that can develop after a person has been exposed to a traumatic event, characterised by a specific set of symptoms including re-experiencing of the event, avoidance and numbing and arousal. The present study investigates the impact of lifetime potentially traumatic events, including losses, and of post-traumatic stress symptoms on the severity of illness in patients with fibromyalgia (FM).
Methods: Sixty-one patients with FM, diagnosed according to the American College of Rheumatology criteria, were consecutively enrolled at the Unit of Rheumatology, University of Pisa, Italy. Assessments included: the SCID-5 and the Trauma and Loss Spectrum Self-Report (TALS-SR) lifetime version.
Results: 21.3% of the subjects (n=13) met the criteria for "partial" PTSD: 57.4% criterion B, 42.6% criterion C, 31.1 criterion D and 44.3% criterion E. Fibromyalgia patients without PTSD reported significantly lower scores in all domains compared to the patients with partial PTSD, the latter ones reporting significantly lower scores in all domains compared to full PTSD with the exception of domain I. In particular, these differences were noticeable in Domain VI and Domain VIII.
Conclusions: The results of the study show that fibromyalgic patients with PTSD report more potentially traumatic events, avoidance symptoms, numbing, arousal, maladaptive coping and personality characteristics compared to patients with partial or without PTSD; these results could indicate that loss and/or trauma events represent a risk factor for the development of symptoms of FM in genetically predisposed individuals.