Fibromyalgia and depression often occur together, and that’s not a coincidence.

If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you are probably all too familiar with the pain. You may also feel isolated, alone, or like no one understands what you are going through.

Unfortunately, these combined effects can lead to mental health challenges, like depression or anxiety.

Indeed, people with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop major depressive disorder compared with the general population. Estimates suggest that 13%– 63.8% of people living with fibromyalgia develop depressive disorders.

Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain and fatigue throughout your body.

Though there is no cure for the condition, you may find that treatments can effectively help keep symptoms under control.

Common symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • fatigue
  • memory, concentration, and thinking issues
  • stiffness and pain across the body
  • issues with sleep
  • headaches, including migraines and other types
  • depression and anxiety

A 2019 study found that folks living with fibromyalgia may also develop irritable bowel syndrome, hair loss, hearing difficulties, and other conditions.

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are unknown, but researchers have some ideas of risk factors associated with it. Both advanced age and living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or lupus are known risk factors.

Being assigned female at birth may also increase your chances of developing fibromyalgia.

If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you have a higher chance of developing certain mental conditions.

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that about 20% of people living with fibromyalgia also develop depression. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also lists depression as a symptom of fibromyalgia.

As a result, doctors should regularly screen those living with fibromyalgia for symptoms of depression.

Along with an increased risk of depression, an estimated 20%–80% of those living with fibromyalgia also develop anxiety.

Many believe that the association between fibromyalgia and mental health conditions has to do with how individuals respond to various physical symptoms.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia that may be associated with developing mental health conditions include:

  • fatigue
  • increased pain intensity
  • physical and mental strain
  • impact on quality of life
  • functional limitations
  • number of tender points on the body
  • sleep that is non-restorative
  • cognitive symptoms
  • irritability

These symptoms can also lead to depression because they may cause people living with fibromyalgia to feel rejected, isolated, or misunderstood by others. The constant physical pain can also contribute to depression.

In one older study from 2012, researchers proposed that depression and fibromyalgia may be more than just a cause-and-effect relationship.

In their study, researchers cited that the similarities in the makeup of the two conditions, as well as treatment options, suggest they may be two symptoms of an underlying condition.

Current, similar research to the 2012 study does not appear to exist.

Another mental health concern for people living with fibromyalgia is suicide. This can include death by suicide, suicide ideation, and attempted suicide.

An estimated 16.7% of people living with fibromyalgia have attempted suicide. The higher rate among those with fibromyalgia compared to the general population may also be related to increased rates of depression.

Finally, depression is not the only possible mental health condition you might experience when living with fibromyalgia. Other reported conditions include:

Whether you are living with fibromyalgia or a combination of fibromyalgia and depression, there are several potential treatment options to help you find relief. The following treatments can help treat both depression and fibromyalgia.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are a common form of treatment for both depression and fibromyalgia.

There are two types that work for fibromyalgia symptoms. They include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and combined serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Counseling

Counseling can help you learn to manage your symptoms, which can include coping strategies for both pain management and depression.

You may find it helpful to join a local group that specializes in fibromyalgia, depression, or both. A good source for finding a group or individual counseling session may be your healthcare team.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of therapy designed to help you change how you make positive changes in how you think or act. The changes may help you better manage your depression symptoms.

Medication to treat pain

Though pain medication does not directly treat depression, treating the pain associated with fibromyalgia may help improve your mood.

Studies indicate that the pain can lead to feelings of depression, which means that treating the pain successfully may help both conditions.

Though it can be challenging, making small changes to your everyday life may help improve both your mood and fibromyalgia pain.

For example, the CDC recommends you take time to be physically active each day. This can include activities you enjoy, such as playing basketball, or exercise like running or biking.

By getting more physically active, you may also help improve your sleep. Improved sleep can help with improving both fibromyalgia as well as depression symptoms.

If you find that you need additional support, you might find that support groups may help.

You can reach out to your healthcare team for suggestions about groups located near you.

If you’re living with fibromyalgia and depression, you are not alone, even if it may feel that way at times. If you are struggling with where to start, here are a few suggestions:

  • Contact your healthcare team, who can help connect you with local support groups, counseling options, or CBT providers that may help.
  • Try to increase your physical activities, but talk to your doctor before starting a new, rigorous routine.