Suicide: Is There a Greater Risk Among Fibromyalgia Patients?

Suicide: Is There a Greater Risk Among Fibromyalgia Patients?

chronically candid mom

Suicide is an often-overlooked and taboo subject. That is the reason why I wanted to write this column — to bring awareness and light to this overlooked topic. Suicide is a very serious issue that a lot of us may have dealt with, in one way or another.

Many of us know a friend, or a friend of a friend, a brother, cousin, aunt or uncle who has passed due to suicide. Or maybe you have never had an experience with suicide other than hearing about celebrities’ deaths, television  shows, books or movies (like Girl Interrupted with Angelina Jolie) that talk about the sudject.

Whether you have any real life experience with this subject or not, you might not know this: Among fibromyalgia patients and patients with other chronic illness, like lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, or lupus, the suicide rate is sky-high. How high you ask? Ten times as high as the general population, according to Psychology Today.

Why is this, and what can we all do about it?

Living with a chronic illness can be devastating. It can take away your since of purpose, life as you know it, and your sense of normalcy. This can be a lot for one person to bear. Dealing with a chronic illness diagnosis is rated as one of the most stressful events anyone can go through in their lifetime, right up there with other stressful events like, divorce, death of a loved one, moving, job loss or financial troubles like bankruptcy.

Another reason why the suicide rate is so high among chronic illness patients is the lack of support and understanding. Often they can feel lost, confused, or hopeless because this is not an illness that can be cured. There is no easy fix, often patients suffer for years on end and it can really affect relationships and families. In turn, this causes a multitude of problems and struggles for not only the one suffering, but also those who love and care about them.

Fibromylagia patients can feel hopeless, like they will never feel “normal” or “well,” and because there is no cure, it seems even more hopeless. With a chronic illness the best you can do is manage the disease, rather than “get well.”

So, what can we do to help bring down the suicide rate? Here are my suggestions:

First, educate yourself. Find information about the illness from reputable websites. Gather as much info on the illness as you can if you or a loved one is dealing with this illness.

Secondly, offer support. Ask questions, don’t assume, communicate. Ask your loved ones how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Let them know you care.

The third thing you can do is understand. Understanding is a very hard thing to do, both physically and mentally. If you feel like your loved one might be at risk of suicide, seek help and support from a professional. Go to doctors’ appointments with them. Tell them you are concerned. Don’t dismiss things said in a joking way. They might not be joking at all; rather, they may be trying to tell you how they feel without being vulnerable to judgment.

For more about helping yourself or a loved one, visit CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self Help.

Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

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  1. Denise Bault says:

    Glad someone is finally talking about this! I knew the rate was 10 times higher for us than the general population. I doubt if there is anyone afflicted with this horrible illness that hasn’t thought about it. Besides religious views, when contemplating suicide, one thing that might make you stop is to think about how it will affect the PERSON WHO FINDS YOU. Do you really want to put them through that? (That would be life altering for anyone.) And what happens if you’re not successful? Fibromyalgia is bad enough. Couldn’t imagine being in a home with half my brains blown out or lying there due to a stoke or some other thing the suicide attempt brought on. Both those things have made me reconsider…Isn’t it sad that this illness even makes us think about it?

    • Sandra Wallace says:

      When I came across this astounding fact, that the suicide rate was ten times higher, I had to write this article. I do think that all of us with Fibro have had a few dark moments. When you are dealing with chronic pain it can bring you to a dark place, even if it’s momentarily. I also had a good friend that passed a few days before my second son was born. Cause of death was suicide but those that knew her have a hard time believing that. She was so vibrant, pretty, healthy, full of life, in my eyes her life was perfect, nice house, good job…but I guess you just never really know what someone is really feeling or thinking. Thank you for the comment.

    • bob smith says:

      “Isn’t it sad that this illness even makes us think about it?” Replace with isn’t it sad we life in a country that makes sure doctors DO NOT help FM patients, just because college students and junkies take pain killers for fun!
      Being that there is a “War on drugs” and now a “War on opioids”, that means MANY doctors should be held and tried for “War crimes”, or cruel and unusual punishments(that you have to pay for LOL), or even “Crimes vs humanity”.

  2. Colette says:

    I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 2 years ago I’m 42 , I suffer in silence ,I stil work like I have since leaving school ,I go to sleep with pain and wake up with pain everyday it’s horrible to live with I cry alone sometimes ,I don’t really think nobody really understands what u go through not just phisicle pain it’s mentally draining too ,I try carry on regardless ,still working and trying to cope with what ive got , I take everyday as it comes and stil try to think positive and keep going I don’t wish this illness on anybody so hard to live with,

    • Sandra Wallace says:

      hi Clette I’m so sorry to hear you are suffering with this illness. You know what though? You are lucky because so many people suffer for years and years and are dismissed as being depressed, crazy,lying, etc. never even getting a diagnosis. Since you do have a diagnosis at least you got through the first step. Now the trick is finding the right dr. and treatment to manage this illness. What have you tried for your pain? Maybe I can give you some insight. I’ve had this condition over 10 years so I have tried a lot of treatments. I am even going to the top Fibro specialist in Ca this summer. All we can do is manage the symptoms until there is a cure. In my opinion from the research I’ve done and having medical background I think it is similar to lyme in a of ways.

  3. Denise Bault says:

    Who’s the top fibro specialist in CA and where are they located? I may be moving there and would like to see him/her. Thanks!

    • Sandra Wallace says:

      Send me an email @ [email protected]. I don’t know if he would like me to put his name out there. He’s already swamped. I probably won’t be able to see him until late summer. You have to get a referral from your regular dr in order for him to take you as a patient. I live in Northern Ca and I will be driving down to Stanford to see him. It is just my opinion he is the best but I feel he understands the cause of this condition which a lot of other drs. don’t

  4. Leigh says:

    If you or someone you know are feeling suicidal there are resources to help. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1(800)273-8255(TALK). Trained professionals are available 24/7. You Are Not Alone. Help Is Available.

    Please note: Anyone writing responsibly about the subject of suicide must include resources for help.

  5. Ashley says:

    Thank u for writing about this. I think about suicide everyday. I got sick at age 19 and it just killed my entire future. I was called a liar, pill popper, lazy, irresponsible and selfish. No one believed me for a long time. Thankfully my family supports me unconditionally now. I’m 26yrs old. I’ve been diagnosed with, FM, CFS, and UCTD+. I don’t leave my house unless it’s to see Drs. I deleted all social networking bc it was too painful to see what I was missing out on, I hide from my friends bc I’m ashamed of how I look now. I have no job/$, no spouse or kids, no insurance, denied by all $ assistance, etc. If I didn’t have my family I know I wouldn’t still be here fighting. I’m hoping for anything to change the course of my life. Thank u so much for your article, I’ve never shared any of this but I do feel better knowing I’m not the only one struggling with this. Much appreciated!!

    • Peggy M says:

      You are not alone. My family thinks my illness is convenient, not that the stress of someone close dying, might make you so sick you can’t get out of bed to go to a funeral. Stress of holidays, money for the illness’s cost, the government and insurance companies want to take away or rising cost for pain meds. Telling us to use slimy creams, heat and ice. Which I Have been using since this started. My whole body hurts. Some days I’m afraid to fart. My guts might come out. Every time I go to (docs)there is something else wrong. I don’t want to talk about it to everyone. It’s depressing and sad and a lot. I don’t want sympathy. I want a call that morning(I live day by day) Before they get ready,(takes me more time)Just ask if I want to go with.Even if i have to say no more times than yes. That is what says I love you, not words. My son is the one that(takes care)of me. He see the full pain. It makes him feel worthless that he can’t help me more. They say he don’t want to work either. I thank god for him. He has saved my life more times then I want to remember. I get tired of bullies & meanies criticizing anyone. Do on to others, what you want done to you. I send my love to all & may they find something that helps us all.

  6. dave says:

    My wife is the bravest person I have ever known, she was diagnosed five years ago and is 44, her doctor at the Cleveland Clinic keeps telling her that her own journey with this disease is still progressing and that it will get worse as time goes on. She has a clerical job and even that is getting more and more difficult as time goes by. I do everything possible to lighten her load by doing the majority of the domestic but she feels helpless and hopeless that she cannot help more.
    We have tried all of the usual medication, relaxation techniques ect… and nothing works. She has even tried marijuana out of desperation and found a small amount of relief but not enough to make the risks worthwhile (we are not druggies, I dont smoke at all and she had not tried it in a quarter of a century) when it comes to potential legal ramifications. Quite frankly it is becoming more difficult for her every day and I worry about her more as time goes by.
    Fibromyalgia may not be life threatening but it takes your life one inch at a time. We are still young or too young to have to plan events around the inevitable recovery days. The depression is weighing her down and she tells me that I do not deserve to be stuck with a wife who is getting noticeably worse every month and year.
    I am afraid of her taking her life, she has hinted and I am ever on the lookout for signs. We looked into applying for disability for her but the process is almost insurmountable, it takes 30 to 36 months to get a hearing and you cannot work during that time. We are not poor but neither are we rich and need two incomes. I keep telling her that we could adjust our lifestyle, cut out vacations and downsize to make it easier but she refuses. She just keeps plugging away.
    She is the strongest woman I have ever known and I am so very proud of her. My sympathy goes out to all of the folk who suffer from this damning disease.

  7. N. says:

    I would also add to the comments the fact that some of the drugs commonly prescribed, as Cymbalta, have an increased risk in suicidal thoughts as high as 4 times with the medication against the general population.

  8. Kelly Lundgren says:

    All I’ve done today is do research on Fibromyalgia. What medications are reported to help manage symptoms, what is the suicide rate of individuals with Fibro, how to talk to your loved ones about what you’re experiencing so they understand you’re not constantly ditching them because you don’t want to do anything with them.
    I am, also, unfortunately, at the point where I’m starting to daydream and fantasize about suicide and how I’d do it.
    I cry all the time, I force myself daily to do things that I know I’m going to regret later because I want to hide how I’m really feeling.
    I don’t want to disappoint my family, friends or husband because of my symptoms but I just can’t keep faking it. I can’t keep up this facade that I’m “OK”.
    My husband caught me crying when I was getting ready to babysit my 18 month old niece. I broke down and told him that I’ve been fantasizing about suicide and he was shocked and disturbed.
    I have an appointment with my family doctor with a notebook full of suggestions, statistics and the truth about my suicide fantasies.
    I miss the old me. I want her back. I know I’ll never see her again, she died, and now this is the new me and I can’t tolerate her. My new ‘normal’ is not acceptable.
    I won’t do it, suicide, at least not yet. I could never hurt my husband or my family and friends like that. I am afraid however that I may finally be so overcome with my pain that the thoughts of them will no longer stop me from doing it.
    I’m praying hard that my doctor listens, understands and helps because if he doesn’t… it won’t be good.

    • Donna says:

      Kelly – I understand how you feel because I’ve been in that same horrible place before. Hang in there and don’t give up!!! It won’t always be as bad as it is right now. Keep fighting. Keep trying new things. I still struggle a lot but I’m far from that bad place where I once was. My journey from that place to where I’m at today started with a good counselor. I met with her every week. I started trying every treatment I could for my Fibro, anxiety and depression. I’m still on that journey and it is still hard and I’m still searching for things that help. But I’m not suicidal and I do have hope for the future. I’ve learned to control my diet as best as possible after learning what foods trigger my Fibro. BTW, I’d try eliminating gluten and personally I have to stay away from Nitrates, Sulfites and MSG…so most preservatives. I take several supplements: Vit B, Vit D (have your Vitamin D level checked) Omega 3s, Magnesium and a Probiotic. I also take CBD oil. Anyway, if you can find 1 thing that helps even a little with the depression and pain, then your 1 step closer to feeling a little better. You’re in my prayers.

  9. Leigh says:

    Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1(800)273-8255(TALK). Help is free and confidential. Trained professionals are available 24/7. You Are Not Alone. Help Is Available.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I attempted suicide last year and it didn’t work. It just overtook my mind and I didn’t and couldn’t think of anything or anyone else just focusing on leaving this world and hopefully ending my suffering but I guess it wasn’t my time to go. It’s interesting to me how I didn’t think of not even my family, my pets or anything at all. It’s like all I could think about was I wanted to end my suffering the physical and emotional agony and I was thinking it would work but it didn’t. “Life” goes on. I did call the suicide hotline before my attempt. They knew the number I was calling from and offered to “pair” me with someone in my area who would understand and empathize. No one can understand what we, the chronic pain patients, are up against. And honestly, nobody (aside from us) really seems to care. It’s all opioid hysteria and fake illness all over the misinformed media going on and on when will people care about our suffering as not terminal but lifelong debilitating chronic pain sufferers ? Why doesn’t anyone talk about that ? I do not ever hear ANY mention of chronic pain patients anywhere aside from when they are referring to (some of us) as drug seekers and drug addicts. We all know that if any one of those people could feel our pain they would be seeking relief in some way or another. It is truly a horrible time to be a chronic chronic pain patient.

  11. STEPHEN ROLDAN says:

    This one ugly thing!
    Diagnosed this year im 39. I’ve had these symptoms for a looooong time.. And ibs that comes with it. Always tired ;people just think im lazy but im not..Started a new job and hating it ;at the end of my day it’s like someone hit me with a bat all over my body.cymbalta,neurontin,kratom helps but really not all that much. Cannabis did help but stopped that around 7 months ago. After a lifetime of it. Good luck too all of you!

  12. Angie says:

    My husband is enduring the effects of fibro and I am looking for any type of spouse support online community. Since it occurs in women more then men I have a hard time finding articles that can help me help him.

    • Leigh says:

      You might want to try ancillary services and resources like the Chronic Pain Association or Arthritis Association. Additionally, there are numerous Caregiver Associations. You just need to research which will best suit your needs.

    • Donna says:

      I have found quite a few support groups on Facebook. They are extremely helpful. I think I’ve joined every support group on Facebook, actually. Do the same and then you’ll figure out which ones you like the best. Good luck and great job being so supportive for your husband.

  13. Linda L Lemke says:

    I have had fibromyalgia for over 30 years. It was the most painful the first 10 years. If I do not pace myself, I can still get a flare that lasts a few weeks and with all the pain of the flu. Lots of muscle aching with flare-ups. I still get upset that I cannot “plan” things like other people do. I do not appreciate others thinking that I am a hypochondriac and undependable. I am 74 now and am part of a red-hat group. Many times I am unable to make the meetings. My closest friends understand and I have told them that I do not know how I will feel until I wake up in the morning. I have been severely depressed and suicidal. If you have a friend who cries often and mentions that they would be better off dead………get them help. Feeling suicidal can take a person over.
    I am in a good place at 74 yrs of age. I have come to accept many things. Maybe acceptance is the key?

  14. Cass says:

    I’ve had fibromyalgia for 20 years with many other diagnoses added since then. I have fought all these years to maintain hope that some day there would be a cure or at least a treatment that would reduce the pain and fatigue to a tolerable level. But it has never happened and I don’t believe it ever will. It’s just not a priority to doctors and scientists. I think of suicide all the time, but I don’t want to hurt or traumatize anyone else. I feel trapped.

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