Young Adults with Fibromyalgia and History of Trauma Show More Psychological Problems, Study Finds

Young Adults with Fibromyalgia and History of Trauma Show More Psychological Problems, Study Finds

Young adults with juvenile-onset fibromyalgia (JFM) who have a history of trauma have higher rates of psychological disturbances, according to a study titled “Clinical profiles of young adults with juvenile-onset fibromyalgia with and without a history of trauma.

The study compared JFM patients with and without a history of trauma over eight years, and the results were published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

Fibromyalgia patients often report traumatic situations — physical or sexual abuse, neglect, parental divorce, financial hardship — when questioned about their past. Studies have suggested that a traumatic history could enhance pain in these patients.

A history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appears to be more common in youth with JFM than in healthy young adults. But its impact on the disease outcome of young adult patients had not been previously addressed.

In this study, teens between the ages of 13 and 18 were questioned at four different time points about physical and psychological symptoms over eight years. At the end of the study, there were 110 participants (86 with JFM and 24 healthy individuals) with a mean age of 23.

To assess history of trauma, participants were asked if they experienced injury, accidents, physical or sexual abuse as a child and/or as an adult, or witnessed violence. They were also asked to score pain intensity according to an 11-point numeric rating scale (NRS), which ranges from 0 (no pain) to 10 (pain as bad as you can imagine).

Participants’ symptoms of fibromyalgia were examined using the Widespread Pain Index (WPI) and Symptom Severity Index (SSI).

In total, 37 percent of the JFM participants reported suffering traumatic experiences (trauma group), 17.2 percent had PTSD, and 14.7 percent were sexually abused.

When participants were examined for psychiatric disorders, the trauma group showed a significantly greater incidence of bipolar disorder and anxiety when compared with JFM patients who did not report a history of trauma. However, there were no significant differences in pain intensity or fibromyalgia symptoms between the two groups.

“Contrary to prior research in fibromyalgia and JFM, study results indicated that young adults with JFM and a trauma history had higher rates of psychological comorbidities but did not experience poorer pain and physical functioning, thus highlighting a need for future investigations in this area,” the team wrote in their report.

Compared to previous studies, which questioned adults between 40-50 years old about traumatic events in childhood, this study questioned younger people, who may better recall those episodes.

“With a greater understanding of how trauma and JFM relate over time, long-term physical and psychological outcomes for these patients can be improved,” the authors concluded.