Psychological impact of fibromyalgia: current perspectives

Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2019 Feb 13;12:117-127. doi: 10.2147/PRBM.S178240. eCollection 2019.


Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread and persistent musculoskeletal pain and other frequent symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, morning stiffness, cognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety. FMS is also accompanied by different comorbidities like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. Although some factors like negative events, stressful environments, or physical/emotional traumas may act as predisposing conditions, the etiology of FMS remains unknown. There is evidence of a high prevalence of psychiatric comorbidities in FMS (especially depression, anxiety, borderline personality, obsessive-compulsive personality, and post-traumatic stress disorder), which are associated with a worse clinical profile. There is also evidence of high levels of negative affect, neuroticism, perfectionism, stress, anger, and alexithymia in FMS patients. High harm avoidance together with high self-transcendence, low cooperativeness, and low self-directedness have been reported as temperament and character features in FMS patients, respectively. Additionally, FMS patients tend to have a negative self-image and body image perception, as well as low self-esteem and perceived self-efficacy. FMS reduces functioning in physical, psychological, and social spheres, and also has a negative impact on cognitive performance, personal relationships (including sexuality and parenting), work, and activities of daily life. In some cases, FMS patients show suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and consummated suicide. FMS patients perceive the illness as a stigmatized and invisible disorder, and this negative perception hinders their ability to adapt to the disease. Psychological interventions may constitute a beneficial complement to pharmacological treatments in order to improve clinical symptoms and reduce the impact of FMS on health-related quality of life.

Keywords: background; fibromyalgia; mood; patients’ experiences; personality; psychological impact.

Publication types

  • Review