Coping with the "Invisible Disease" Fibromyalgia? Therapy Can Help

The mystery surrounding the arrival of fibromyalgia and the realities of living with it have confounded health professionals and scientists. If you have fibromyalgia, you might have heard, “your pain isn’t real,” or “there’s no cause for your pain.” Maybe you’ve even encountered doctors who don’t know how to treat you.

Facing disbelief and skepticism when you’re reaching out for help can be tremendously disheartening. After being met with what feels like silence, you could understandably feel disillusioned, angry, or alone.

Fibromyalgia is different from health disorders like arthritis, cancer, or diabetes in the sense that you might come to believe you’re only imagining your condition. “What’s wrong with me?” you might think.

So how can therapy help?

In cases of fibromyalgia, one of the primary goals of a therapist is to acknowledge and help you accept that the pain you’re feeling truly is real. That the causes and symptoms of fibromyalgia are still murky does not mean that causes and symptoms do not exist. A good therapist means to be an ally in a journey that can feel just too treacherous to venture alone.

Like many aspects of living with fibromyalgia, it’s not yet understood whether depression and anxiety occur alongside the disorder, or whether depression and anxiety occur in the wake of chronic pain. What is understood is that when you feel bad emotionally, the sleepless nights, sharp pains, and mental fog of fibromyalgia become worse.

When you’re not sleeping and everything hurts, it really helps to be able to turn to someone else for help with the emotional struggles that coincide with fibromyalgia. A therapist can help you cope in a few ways: you can begin to come to terms with the dramatic changes your life has undergone, you can practice happier and more productive lines of thinking, and you can brainstorm practical ways of managing fibromyalgia’s effects.

In therapy you can also begin to sort through stresses that are making the possibility of healthier living seem remote. Perhaps painful memories or vivid worries compound your pain in the struggle to fall asleep. Maybe you’ve struggled around your relationship with food and are finding it too difficult to eat well. It makes sense that in the experience of a disorder that makes everything feel like it hurts, what seem like normal hurdles can loom larger than life in your visions of the future.

Because fibromyalgia affects your ability to feel joy, pleasure, and hope, and because no one seems to fully understand it, the relationships that matter to you the most can face unique challenges. With a therapist you can explore what your own needs are when it comes to your friends’ and family’s support. You can begin to see how your own pain is affecting your loved ones and how they too can learn to cope.

There are many different ways going to therapy can help soothe the emotional wounds created by chronic pain, but perhaps the central benefit of seeking counseling for fibromyalgia is being able to talk about your experience with the condition. Little is known about fibromyalgia, and you’ve probably heard dozens of conflicting and possibly unhelpful responses to your experience from friends, coworkers, and doctors. It makes sense that you might feel confused, low, and unsure where to turn.

The chronic pain of fibromyalgia affects everyone differently; there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for coming to terms with what you’re going through. By talking about what you’re feeling, you begin to learn more about yourself and gain insight into what the painful changes wrought by fibromyalgia mean to you. You don’t have to struggle with the weight of fibromyalgia alone.