In 2017, I noticed a kind of odd trend among my readers, viewers, and clients: many of them reported having chronic pain and often, fibromyalgia. In fact, as far as I could tell, it looked like the percentage of people in the narcissistic abuse recovery community who reported having been diagnosed with these issues was much higher than in the general population. Instantly, I thought, “There must be a connection!”
After spending a week or two pondering the possible connection between fibromyalgia and being abused by a narcissist, I gave in to my curiosity and got busy researching. Here are some of the things I learned in my research.
Is there a connection between narcissistic abuse, C-PTSD, and fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia Symptoms Sound Familiar to Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
If you’ve experienced narcissistic abuse, you might be able to relate to this list of symptoms. They include things like deep tissue pain, fatigue, depression, mood swings, and insomnia. This is because, according to WomensHealth.gov, “Lower levels of certain brain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or norepinephrine, may cause you to be more sensitive to pain and have a more severe reaction to pain. Imaging studies of the brain show that people with fibromyalgia feel pain when people without fibromyalgia do not. Some medicines prescribed to treat fibromyalgia try to bring the levels of those neurotransmitters back into balance. ” REFERENCE
What the Medical Community Says About the Connection Between Narcissistic Abuse C-PTSD and Fibromyalgia
Yes, It’s a Real Diagnosis, But …
The official word in the medical community, from what I can tell, is that the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown and that it exists among people whose brains “process pain differently.”
The diagnosis has sometimes been considered controversial, with some people saying it’s “not real” or “an imagined condition,” but even traditional medicine now acknowledges the condition as a “real” diagnosis. Even so, there’s no official test for fibromyalgia, so diagnosis is based on a cluster of symptoms rather than a “positive result,” which may account for some of the doubters.
Some Doctors Ignore or MIsdiagnose Your Symptoms
But for anyone who has ever experienced the pain and isolation that fibromyalgia involves, there’s no doubt: it’s very real – and it makes your life hard. Even worse is that some doctors may ignore your symptoms and blame them on your imagination, leaving you to deal with your pain unassisted.
Update 2021: Yes, it turns out that it is. In fact, the NHS website now lists being in abusive relationships as a possible cause of fibromyalgia, along with a list of other possible “triggers,” including an injury, a viral infection, giving birth, surgery, breaking up with a partner or divorce, and death of a loved one.
“Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a stressful event, including physical stress or emotional (psychological) stress,” the report adds. “But in some cases, fibromyalgia does not develop after any obvious trigger.”
WebMD also acknowledges that “significant psychological stress” is one way that the symptoms can be triggered.
I share my thoughts and some additional research in this video.
Are You Mistaking Fibromyalgia Symptoms for ‘Getting Older’ or Stress?
Fibromyalgia symptoms will often show up as common aches or pains, so you might miss them, not realizing how significant they really are. That and a couple of other issues can lead to your family doctor overlooking the warnng signs or misiagnosing you.
For example, if you have muscle pain, you might brush it off and not even go to the doctor. And even if you do, it might be inadvertently misdiagnosed as a sprain or another type of muscle injury, if that’s the only symptom you share in your doctor visit.
Or if you’re feeling tired all the time, you might not tell your doctor, because you’ll search Google or call your mom who will both tell you to get more sleep, eat better, drink more water, stop eating so damn much junk food – and maybe even get more exercise. And all of those would be valid and useful bits of advice, in my experience.
But when you’ve got fibromyalgia, you’re not just tired. You’re dealing with fatigue – the kind that leaves you feeling exhausted all the time. And no matter how much and how long you sleep, you never feel refreshed. When your muscles are stiff, you laugh it off and say it’s hell getting older.
People joke that you’re too young to be this senile, or that you’re too brunette to be this blonde. I mean, you’d never mention your flightiness to your doctor, right? But what you might not know is that the moments when you can’t focus and you can’t concentrate – along with those blonde moments, senior moments and brain farts – could be symptoms of fibromyalgia.
So, yeah, our lack of focus and sense of concentration and the fact that you can’t remember things as easily might be connected to getting older, or to being stressed out. But it’s also something you might want to mention to your doctor, just to be safe.
And either way, knowing what you’re dealing with is usually the first step to solving ANY problem, and this one’s no different.
Tell your doctor about any unexpected or unexplained pain in your body, or if you’re feeling dizzy at random times. And don’t write off those moments where your leg falls asleep as nothing. Tell your doctor if you’re regularly losing sensation in any part of your body, the feeling of “pins and needles.”
One more really important thing to remember: fibromyalgia symptoms can range from mild to severe and can change depending on the time of day, so don’t ignore those intermittent symptoms – you know, the ones that only happen “sometimes.”
This condition doesn’t just go away, and getting help from your doctor can significantly impact your health and your quality of life. So, if you believe your symptoms are consistent with fibromyalgia, or even that you have several of these symptoms but not others, make an appointment with your doctor and get yourself checked out. Bring a list of your symptoms with you so you don’t forget (and yes, include those blonde/senior moments and brain farts!).
Signs You Might Have Fibromyalgia
The pain is real but it isn’t constant.
People who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia say that sometimes it hurts most in the evening. And, you might have some totally pain-free days followed by a week of excruciating misery.
Just being touched in the wrong way can hurt you.
Fibromyalgia causes little “trigger points” or little “spots” on your body that seem to cause an inordinate amount of pain when anyone – or anything – touches them. Common trigger points include in your neck, that little spot in the fold of your elbow, or the one just below your knee, You might also have these little “spots” in your lower back, and just above the top of your thigh. (Note – this is another one of those things you need to mention to your doctor).
You can’t party like a rock star.
Even if you were once an all-night party kind of person, those days might be over. When you have fibromyalgia, not getting enough sleep and overeating, among other not-so-healthy habits, can exacerbate your symptoms, causing you even more pain. Fast food, sugar, and preservatives will also become a thing of the past if they haven’t already.
You’re sick, tired, and you can’t get anything done.
Since stress and illness can intensify your symptoms, which can lead to other physical effects, mental stress, forgetfulness, increased pain, and a number of other life-altering symptoms, And even if you WANT to get stuff done, something keeps stopping you and you can’t seem to be productive to save your life. And, stress and a lack of exercise might make your symptoms worse. Can you see how this could snowball?
What You Should Know If You Are Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia
A fibromyalgia diagnosis might feel scary, but it isn’t a death sentence. First, take a deep breath and know that you are not alone. There are others who successfully deal with this condition and there are many support groups available both online and off that can help you learn about your condition. If you’ve been diagnosed, start learning everything you can to proactively empower yourself.
There’s no cure yet, but there’s a lot you can do to manage your symptoms.
While there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, there so many different options for treating and managing your symptoms. Once you’ve been diagnosed, you can start with your doctor’s advice for your situation. If your doctor approves, you can look into some of the alternative and self-help options out there. You should build your own little support team, depending on the treatments and therapies you choose. Depending on your symptoms, your care team may include a variety of members, including doctors and medical specialists, chiropractors, therapists, coaches and counselors, and a number of holistic and alternative healers. A dietician or nutritionist can help you learn what you need to add (or subtract) from your diet to reduce your symptoms, and you might even find that physical therapy can help reduce pain.
You might have to educate the people around you about fibromyalgia.
You may need to educate your family and friends on the limits your fibromyalgia places on you. Since you might need to make lifestyle changes to keep your health on track, anyone you spend time with is going to be affected by it. For example, you might have to rest more frequently, do less around the house or even find a less physically demanding job.
You might have to give up stuff you really like literally forever.
In other words, you can’t only address symptoms when they’re happening. Survivors who have fibromyalgia have told me that they are the most successful at lessening the symptoms of fibromyalgia when they shift their whole lives toward healing. That means that even when you’re not having symptoms, you have to take extra care and precautions just as you would during active flareups. That means that a change in your lifestyle, even if it feels uncomfortable at first, will pay off in the long run by allowing you to have fewer flare-ups (and therefore a higher quality of life) as a result of your efforts.
Everyone is forced to accept your limits (including you).
You don’t need to make excuses to anyone, but you (and they) are going to have to accept that you have fibromyalgia. And you’ll need to accept that this means you will have certain limits, and no amount of being angry at yourself is going to change that. If anything, being angry at yourself could make it wors So do yourself a favor and , not only because of the negative energy it draws into your life, bu also because of the physical effect it can have on you (not to mention the fact that it will intensify your fibromyalgia symptoms – and there goes the snowball again).
You need a little help or at least a little patience.
You might need to ask for help sometimes, and that’s okay, even if normally, the thought would never occur to you. But when you have fibromyalgia and you’re having one of those days where your pain is taking over, you might need to ask someone for help getting things done. And give yourself permission to put off certain chores and responsibilities if they can wait a day or two. It’s really important that you try to be compassionate to yourself and realistic about the limitations that fibromyalgia cause for you. To balance things out, maybe you can save the things that don’t tax your strength for the days when the flare-ups are at their worst. Obviously, you won’t be able to predict when your symptoms will rear their ugly head, but planning ahead and knowing what you’ll do when flare-ups happen can make life a lot easier for you.
Your life will never be the same, but it can still be good.
Fibromyalgia might force you to change your lifestyle, but with treatment combined with self-help and self-care, you can still enjoy your life. You’ll definitely want to involve your doctor in your care plan and get medical clearance for any kind of treatment you decide to try, even if it’s an alternative one. You need to be sure it’s safe.
Plus, your doctor may be able to prescribe something to take the edge off your pain. You might find that it’s even more effective if you combine it with massage therapy or a visit to your chiropractor. Other helpful things survivors say can help include mindfulness, meditation, regular exercise, and a number of alternative therapies and programs. Some people even say essential oils have been helpful in easing their symptoms. And this is just a fraction of a percent of the possibilities and options out there to consider.
I say explore your options, but please always check in with your doctor on anything that might affect your health, even if you’re not sure. I stress this because I care – and because you and I both know that there are always people out there who might want to take advantage of vulnerable targets. So, be aware, do your research, get medical approval on anything you need to, and be careful. That being said, still explore, research, read, and know your options. Knowledge is always power, and no one knows every single thing.
Paying Attention to Diet Can Help With Fibromyalgia Symptoms
You can use a fibromyalgia diet to help control the symptoms associated with this condition better. Scientists have known for years that eating certain types of foods can work with the body to bring a sense of well being. But did you know that for some people, certain foods, including some that are considered healthy, could actually exacerbate your health issues?
In other words, you will need to get really personalized with your diet – there’s no one-size-fits-all here. For example, gluten, a protein that can be found in many types of foods, cause a variety of issues for some people diagnosed with fibromyalgia – but some people don’t have a problem with it. And some people say that MSG can make the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse, while others tolerate it fine. Caffeinated diet sodas with artificial sweeteners are also reportedly a common issue for many people.
It’s best to avoid processed foods, preservatives, and excessive sugar, but since there really is no one size fits all diet for those with this syndrome, you’ve got to learn to tune into your body and pay attention to what it tells you.
You might find It helps to keep a food journal and write down any adverse reactions to the meals you eat. If one particular meal makes you feel more lethargic or leaves you feeling uncomfortable or in pain, then you might consider eliminating them from your diet.
So what can you eat? There are some doctors who will prescribe a diet consisting only of vegetables and there are studies showing that a vegetarian diet can have other health benefits as well. Still, others believe sticking with a normal healthy diet works just as well for patients with fibromyalgia.
In this video Interview, Functional Medicine Coach and Holistic Healer/Nutritionist Sharon Chud offers additional insight into the connection between narcissistic abuse and fibromyalgia as well as how diet can help in alleviating symptoms of fibromyalgia.
More Resouces on Using DIet to Relieve and Reduce Fybromyalgia Symptoms
- Fibromyalgia Diet to Ease Symptoms (Healthline)
- Foods to Eat and Avoid with Fibromyalgia (Medical News Today)
- Does Your Diet Affect Fibromyalgia? These Changes May Help (WebMD)
Trauma-Induced Weight Gain as a Symptom of Narcissistic Abuse
In this video interview, Sharon Reese Chud shares her thoughts on weight struggles during and after narcissistic abuse.
Sharon Reese Chud: Functional Medicine Coach/Holistic Practitioner/ Nutritionist
- Sharon’s email: [email protected]
- Sharon Chud’s Phone Number 215-680-2354
Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support
- The QueenBeeing SPANily, Official – We consider this to be the best narcissistic abuse recovery support group on the web. Offers several subgroups and features a vigilant, compassionate admin team full of trained coaches and survivors, supporting more than 12k members. SPAN is an acronym created by Angie Atkinson that stands for Support for People Affected by Narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships.
- Other Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups – We also have separate groups for each stage in your narcissistic abuse recovery, as well as some for those who have moved past recovery and are evolving into the next stage of their own life. Survivors have unique and individual needs, even when they’ve moved on – so we’re still here for you.
- One-on-One Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Coaching – If you prefer to get more personalized support in your recovery, you might like to schedule a session with one of our coaches to plan and execute your own narcissistic abuse recovery plan.
- Find a Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Therapist – If you’re looking for a therapist for narcissistic abuse recovery, either because you cannot afford coaching and want to use your health insurance or because you have additional issues you need to address that do not fall within the realm of coaching, you will want to find the right therapist for you – and as far as we’re concerned, that therapist must understand what you’ve been through. This page offers assistance to help you do exactly that.
- Where Are You in Recovery? You might not be sure exactly where you fit in and what level of recovery you’ve achieved. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out this self-assessment to help you determine exactly where you fall in the stages of recovery from narcissistic abuse. Once you finish and submit the assessment, you will be given resources for your own situation, along with recommendations of which groups to join.
- Which Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Program is Right for You? If you aren’t sure which program you want to utilize to facilitate your recovery from narcissistic abuse, this self-assessment will help you decide.
Helpful Reading for Narcissistic Abuse Survivors
- Shocking Truth: This is Why Even Very Smart People Can Be Gaslighted
- Toxic Love: 44 warning signs that you’re being emotionally abused
- Codependent-Toxic: Portrait of a Narcissist’s Significant Other
- Take Back Your Life: How to Control a Narcissist
- Take Back Your Life: Stop Letting Your Narcissist Parents Control You, NOW!
- Love a Narcissist? Stop Gaslighting in its Tracks With This Foolproof Trick
- Help for Victims of Narcissism and Gaslighting
- Let’s Talk About You: 10 Signs YOU Might Be a Narcissist
- Triangulation: Why you should never try to fix an argument for a narcissist
- Toxic Relationship? How to Stop Feeling ‘Dead Inside’
- Toxic Narcissism in Relationships: Top 10 Warning Signs You’re Being Gaslighted
- Narcissistic Rage and Narcissistic Injury: What You Need to Know
Angela Atkinson is a certified trauma counselor and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery, and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic abuse in toxic relationships since 2006, she has a popular narcissistic abuse recovery YouTube channel. Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed narcissistic abuse recovery coaching and has certifications in trauma counseling, life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation, and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy.
She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse here at QueenBeeing.com and at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online.