Depression in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Understanding & Treating this Common Overlapping Condition

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Depression often goes hand-in-hand with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). In spite of the stereotypes, these illnesses aren't psychological and aren't caused by depression.

Still, getting proper treatment for depression is important for your well being. It can also help you manage your FMS or ME/CFS more effectively.

When illness strikes, many people become depressed because of how they feel, the changes forced upon them, and fears about their health.

Chronic illness can also threaten job security, relationships, and plans for the future. Any of those things can lead to depression. It's a normal response to a bad situation and doesn't mean that you're weak.

While depression is common in chronic illness, it's even more common in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome than in many illnesses of comparable severity. No one knows for certain why that is, but theories include:

  • Common underlying causes;
  • Poor acceptance of these illnesses by the medical community, family and friends;
  • Ineffectiveness of many treatments.

Situations like these can lead to feelings like demoralization and hopelessness.

The similarities and frequent overlap have lead many people, including some doctors, to make the assumption that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are just different manifestations of depression. However, a 2008 study says looked at the available literature on the fibromyalgia/depression link, and researchers concluded that the findings don't support that assumption.

No matter the connection, we know it's important to diagnose and treat comorbid depression. We offer a wealth of information that can help you decide whether you need treatment, what kinds of treatments may work for you and more.

Am I Depressed?

At some point, just about everyone with a chronic illness asks themselves, "Am I depressed?" It's normal to have low periods while adjusting to the changes that illness imposes.

It's important to know at what point normal emotions become major depression. Our symptoms are very similar to those of depression, so it can be hard to tell which condition is causing which problem. It pays to educate yourself about symptoms and to work with your doctor to decide whether you are depressed.

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Why Am I Depressed?

Why do some people with FMS and ME/CFS become depressed while others don't? It might help you to learn what causes this very real illness. It's not a character flaw -- it's more likely to do with your physiology.

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Drug Treatments

Because you're dealing with an illness that has physical components, you may benefit from medication that alters your brain chemistry, such as antidepressants.

Antidepressants are common for treating not only depression, but FMS and ME/CFS as well. Get a better understanding of the changes they're making.

    Unfortunately, the side effect risk of these drugs is very real. You need to know that it's dangerous to just stop taking these medications. Make sure to talk to your doctor about the proper way to wean yourself off of them.

    Weaning can be hard on your body, but you can take steps to make it easier.


    While depression does have physical components, a therapist can help you deal with the emotional issues behind your depression. Counseling can also be valuable for adjusting to life with a chronic, debilitating illness.

    Also See:


    Chi-Un Pae, et al. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008 Aug;24(8):2359-71. "The relationship between fibromyalgia and major depressive disorder: a comprehensive review."

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