Negative Thoughts Increase Stress, Worsen Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Negative Thoughts Increase Stress, Worsen Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Rumination – a way of thinking characterized by repetitive, intrusive and uncontrollable negative thoughts – may influence several psychological variables, such as coping and optimism, which can amplify the sense of perceived stress in fibromyalgia (FM), according to a new study.

The study, titled “Rumination Modulates Stress And Other Psychological Processes In Fibromyalgia,” was published in the European Journal of Rheumatology.

FM is characterized by widespread pain and high levels of sleep disturbance, fatigue and altered cognition, which can be exacerbated by psychological stress, personality types, coping and anxiety. Certain styles of thinking, such as rumination, also can affect FM by inducing emotional stress.

“We hypothesized that higher levels of rumination would be associated with psychological variables that are linked to stress itself,” the authors wrote in the study. “These variables include mood, control, optimism, sleep and coping. We aimed to examine the role of rumination thinking style and to explore whether this thinking style contributes to stress levels in FM.”

To do so, 98 FM women completed several questionnaires to assess their levels of rumination, stress, anxiety, depression, optimism, control and coping.

Researchers found that patients with higher levels of rumination had increased use of negative coping techniques and higher levels of anxiety, depression and poor sleep levels. These patients also had lower optimism and control. Higher levels of rumination correlated strongly with stress.

Together, the results indicated that ruminative thoughts influenced several psychological processes important for FM, namely stress.

“The association between stress and rumination was the strongest of all the variables tested”, the authors wrote. “High rumination was associated with high stress. We could not define the cause and effect with this cross-sectional methodology; however, we believe that it was likely that rumination generated emotional distress rather than the other way around. We have previously demonstrated that in this same cohort, stress predicted the levels of the characteristic phenotypic clinical features of FM, namely pain, poor sleep, cognition, and fatigue. These results are congruent with the effect of stress on other psychological and functional variables as reported in previous studies,” the study authors concluded.

For this reason, the authors believed that better management of ruminative negative thoughts in patients with FM may improve their symptoms and outcomes.

10 comments

  1. PAMELA BERGMANN-KNEBEL says:

    While the study may show this to be true (the group was quite small), I am a pretty positive person and never look back, but still suffer horribly with fibro. I don’t totally agree with this as a way to manage fibro symptoms, ie, make them less severe.

  2. Denise Bault says:

    DUH! Seriously???????????? I’ve taught “positivity” and have been one of the most positive people I know. (You have to be to be successful in sales and I was.) A little hard to do when all the symptoms of fibromyalgia are SCREAMING at you. Right now I’m “positive ” that fibro has changed my life drastically and in a way I did not see coming. I would almost rather have cancer. Then I’d either be dead, in remission, or cured, instead of suffering for years and years on end, trying any and everything to feel better. Rumination, my derriere!

    • Helene Hobbs says:

      Totally agree Denise. I was and still am the most positive person n have always said it to all who would listen the power of the mind etc. Also with this undiagnosed condition all my life. But it’s hard to be that way sometimes with everyone including well meaning doctors thinking they know more than you do. ???? Keep smiling.

  3. Harriet says:

    I agree with both of you ladies that left your comments .. I have been a positive , outgoing and active woman my whole life . Especially when it comes to the outdoors .. now , I am lucky if I can even gt through taking a shower !!!!! Fibromyalgia has ruined my life .. I have sweats , chills , pain from head to toe .. there are times that I feel like my body’s on fire !! My fingers burn like broken blood blisters . No more driving school bus after 23 years ????

    • Tim Bossie says:

      Fibro does ruin many lives because of the debilitating nature of it. It is really quite sad to see so many suffer but yet there aren’t any real diagnostics nor awareness.

  4. Est says:

    What honestly frustrates me everytime one of these frankly waste of money studies comes out is that doctors, friends, family, and other patients read this junk and use it to tell me to be happy all the time, that I’m not trying hard enough, I’m too negative, and the worst is “too sensitive.”

    I don’t appreciate them and I think it’s honestly BS to take a study based on less than 100 people with unknown severity to us/most readers and project that information onto millions of people suffering. I’m frankly sick of hearing about it so often.

    My anger isn’t directed at you but just simple frustration at people who are not interested in actually creating change or help, repeating this same information over and over, and never doing anytihng other than telling me how to feel. Maybe I would feel less bad if people didn’t tell me to be delusionally happy despite my life being pretty crap-tastic right now.

    So to anyone reading this who might tell people they know with fibro or any chronic illness that they are making themselves sick… Radical acceptance is the best option for me. Take a lesson from that, not fake happiness, not pretending to make everyone around you feel better. I think it’s unfair because we aren’t allowed to feel our emotions so we are left to deal with them on our own and often that means facing them again and again without helpful tools. If we had a reason for hope (better treatments) that might help a lot. If people would treat people who are chronically ill better – that would help a lot. But the same people who tell you to be happy/optimistic all the time don’t realize how much energy that takes. They don’t want to hear the negativity or doubt. That leaves a patient to stew in their own negativity and shame.

    It really frustrates me that there is not really a welcome place to “let it out/let it go” and just leave it and move on. No one wants to hear it. The alternative (therapists, etc) are expensive, inaccessible, and often contribute to the abuse of fibro patients/neglect/telling them it’s their fault they are sick. I’m not here for it, and I’m not gonna shut up about how I think this is the wrong way to handle it.

    There’s some blogs you can go to on tumblr where you submit your message anonymously with your illness. Leave the negativity, your rant, your venting, and move on. It’s helpful spiritually and emotionally. The people who read it listen, understand. I have left some and never looked back, and it helped me. Sorry to say is sometimes it really does stink having this illness and others. Sometimes there is not a lot of hope once available treatments fail. And often we are blamed, mocked, and ridiculed by family, doctors, and the public alike. It is hard to be happy all the time in this climate. I don’t feel people’s values are based on how happy they should be. No one can tell you how to feel about your illness. It is ok to be frustrated, and upset, and angry, and sad. If you were not sick, you probably would not feel this way. But it is not your fault. And it is not your obligation to set aside all your feelings just to make people like or believe you are “willing yourself better through happiness.” You are not alone. You don’t always have to be strong or put up a front. I know when I hear this it helps me. It may be cheesy, but you didn’t make yourself sick and you can’t will yourself better. You can only do what you can do. You are human. There’s a lot of information out there and it all is contradictory and very little is evidence or science based and what is is still being used to develop solutions. Until the time we have some definite answers: give yourself a break. You are allowed to do things for you and do what you can. You don’t have to feel guilty. If you can’t git rid of the guilt just like that, that’s ok, you are human.

    Studies are studies, they are not your life nor your obligation to fit to them or respond to their recommendations. They don’t take everything into account. Just do your best to be yourself, even as you are sick.

    • I agree with everything you have said .. there are times when I think people think I am not as sick as I am . Three days ago the straw that breaks the camel’s bàck happened to me . I went into a rage and normally I am a happy go lucky woman .. i am 48 years young and feel 80 years young .. the hardest part for me is hope , faith and healing .. I don’t see that happening for me . I’ve spent so much money on supplements! Believing that those would help . I also have fibromyalgia with three stains of chronic Lyme s disease . You hit the nail on the head , when you said acceptance … Nothing’s going to change for me .. I now have accepted this .. even though each day is a big time struggle , learning acceptance worked for me as far as my stress level . What worked for me was giving up on hope , faith and expectations . Now that I don’t expect to wake up feeling a fraction better , ive felt less stressful . Thank you for expressing your feelings here for me to read , EST .

  5. Denise Bault says:

    I agree with EST and the other ladies! I’m personally tired of reading “studies” that tell us what we already know! How ’bout we use that money searching for a cause/cure? Better spent, I say!

  6. Princess Shealy says:

    If only time would allow others to understand exactly what goes on in my body! I feel if people could see the pain running through my nerves maybe I could feel better.

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