Objective: To determine the prevalence of sexual and physical abuse in female patients with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), as compared with rheumatic disease control patients.
Methods: Eighty-three female FMS patients and 161 consecutive female rheumatology (non-FMS) control patients answered a standardized confidential questionnaire recording previous sexual and physical abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and eating disorders. Demographic information was collected on age, education, economic status, and cultural group.
Results: Overall abuse was greater in FMS patients than in control patients (53% versus 42%; P not significant). Significant differences were observed for lifetime sexual abuse (17% versus 6%), physical abuse (18% versus 4%), combined physical and sexual abuse (17% versus 5%), and drug abuse (16% versus 3%). There was a trend toward a higher incidence of childhood sexual abuse (37% versus 22%) and of eating disorders (10% versus 3%) in the FMS patient group.
Conclusion: A high frequency of sexual abuse was identified both in control patients and in FMS patients. A statistical association was demonstrated between FMS and the frequency and severity of sexual abuse, and the frequency of physical abuse and drug abuse. These results raise the possibility that abuse may have an effect upon the expression and perpetuation of FMS in adult life.