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Aster's avatar

Is Fibromyalgia a made up disease for depressed, bored women?

Asked by Aster (15706 points ) January 23rd, 2013

I have been reading the various feelings about Fibro. My daughter, a nurse, says the doctors she knows think Fibro is non-existent. Fake. Other doctors on the internet think it’s real. One symptom is called “tender points.” It’s very interesting and real. There are places on the body the size of a penny that, when pressed, produce pain. I noticed these about ten years ago, was curious about them but didn’t mind having them. They are in specific locations and they just don’t bother you unless someone pushes on them like with one finger. What are your feelings about Fibro? True or fake?

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16 Answers

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

From what I’ve read about fibromyalgia, it’s a very real and sometimes disabling pain disorder. But, it’s also the disease-of-choice for hypochondriacs. Fibromyalgia can’t be medically discounted, so anyone in search of a disability will reach for it. In fact, some health care practitioners will offer a fibromyalgia diagnosis to appease and pacify a hypochrondriac.

People can’t “create” cancer at will; there are numerous methods for detecting the presence or absence of cancerous cells within a human body. There’s also plenty of substantiation for a heart attack, spleen rupture, brain tumor, etc., etc., etc. The same isn’t true, however, for fibromyaligia, which is diagnosed according to a set of symptoms.

It’s unfortunate that fibromyalgia isn’t physically evident. Many true sufferers are dismissed as malingerers or hypochondriacs when, in actual fact, they have a serous pain condition.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

In the mid-1990s I saw this diagnosis suddenly start to pop up time and again. Invariably, the patients were female, in their 40s or older, overweight and with sedentary lifestyles. The main complaint was generalized muscle and joint pain. The treatment was OTC NSAIDS, at first, but as the complaints continued and the patients would ignore advice to exercise, they were put on mild opioids such as Vicodin. Some, with unscrupulous doctors, moved on to stronger opioids such as oxycontin. It was sad to watch. It was what I call a fad diagnosis. Fad diagnoses are used by doctors in order to get paid by insurance companies for giving treatment of discomforts with no real known origin. Quite often these symptoms are a result of sedentary lifestyle due to depression. (I consider the bloom in bi-polar diagnoses in recent years as an example of a typical fad diagnosis, but that is an entirely different subject with equally disastrous therapeutic results.)

Fibromyalgia simply means muscle pain. In my opinion, if a person sits in front of the TV or computer for hours on end eating Doritos and never get any real daily exercise, their muscles will atrophy, a process which in itself causes muscle pain, they will gain weight and leave their skeletons, which include the joints, to bear all of the weight. They will become more lethargic and suffer generalized pain in the muscles and joints. Depression will exacerbate this. If someone fits this description, they should look for a root cause. Quite often the original reason for becoming a couch potato is depression, a lack of lust for life. Sometimes, they are just lazy and need to get out more. I believe a good diet and walking, swimming, biking regularly will get someone on the right track. Then, once the weight gain is arrested and the person is feeling better, they should find activities that they enjoy such as kayaking, skiing, hiking, swimming, biking, surfing, whatever. The Seratonin and Endorphines will begin to flow and one can actually get addicted to a healthy lifestyle. After a few months, I highly recommend going to a good gym three times a week. It will make your activities ten times better and you will find that once your body is back in balance and you’ve built muscle support, you will feel better and look better. The last thing you want to do is take pain killers for this. That is the road to hell, believe me.

Aster's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus I couldn’t agree more. The only thing that puzzles me are these pain points. I can just picture a woman, overweight and depressed as you described, pushing on both sides of her knees and elbows in front of a yawning doctor and saying, “this hurts, and this, this hurts and so does this and…” But it’s really true. I have this without a shadow of a doubt but it doesn’t bother me.

Shippy's avatar

I stand to be corrected but anything with ‘algia’ on the end is said to be a form of Somatoform illness. Under pain disorder. Which occur by the way over both genders. The word Algia is taken from the Greek algos meaning pain. It is focused around muscular but can also occur in headaches so on. Even around gums and teeth.

Because it is also sometimes associated with nervousness or stress. (Which by the way on it’s own stress releases certain hormones into the blood stream, and can cause inflammation of certain tissues) it can be also part of a neurosis. This then, does not make it fake. So whoever said that needs a slap on the ear. (Delivered swiftly from Shippy of course).

lookingglassx3's avatar

Fibromyalgia is real. My mum has it. She is a very loving and caring mum, but sometimes she can’t give me a hug because the pain is so huge and her joints are so tender. Sometimes I’ll just be sat next to her on the sofa and all of a sudden she’ll shriek with pain because I accidentally leant on her. My dad jokes all the time that it’s not real and she gets deeply upset. It often prevents her from doing things she wants to do.

My best friend also has it. She’s only twenty-one, and is the most vibrant and bubbly person I know, so there is absolutely no need for her to make up a disease to get attention. Fibromyalgia leaves her with extreme fatigue. She is very charismatic and longs to be a ‘party-goer’, but fibromyalgia leaves her so tired that she currently only has a part-time job and after doing her shift, immediately comes home and sleeps until her next shift (she has one in a morning and one in an afternoon). Just recently she stood over another friend, helping her to dye her hair. The position had a really bad effect on her back and she had to spend the next day in bed. Like I say, she is very lively and I know she hates having fibromyalgia, so there’s no need for her to make it up.

wildpotato's avatar

No, fibromyalgia is real. When I was 17–19 I dated a guy (not particularly sedentary or depressed, just a normal dude) who had many mysterious pains, though not tender points as far as I know. I don’t believe for a second that he faked his symptoms. He got diagnosed with fibromyalgia when he was 20. As Shippy points out, any pain disorder is partly psychosomatic (if not in origin than in maintenance), but this does not mean it is faked, not real, or “chosen”/masochistic.

augustlan's avatar

This is a really offensive question to those who suffer the very real effects of fibromyalgia. I was an active woman, not depressed, and not particularly overweight when I developed fibro about 15 years ago. For the first four years, I had no idea what the hell was wrong with me, but I could barely function at all…and I had three very young children at the time. I was lucky to get them dressed, fed, and off to school. After they’d leave for school, I would lay down on the couch, nearly unable to move. I can count the pain-free days I’ve had in all those years on one hand. Four days with no pain, in 15 years. Several days a month, I wake up crying because it hurts so bad. Go ahead and tell me it’s fake. ~

That said, until I was diagnosed, I didn’t believe fibro was real, either. Lucky for me, my doctor did, and treated me for it anyway. Thanks to him and twice-daily doses of Diclofenac, I’m able to live a somewhat normal life. I’m still in pain virtually every single day, but am only sometimes bed-ridden from it these days. When I overdo it, I can sleep for up to 18 hours straight, and am often out of commission for three days.

bookish1's avatar

Auggie said it best. It’s callous at best to speculate over whether someone else’s medical condition or lived experience is “fake” or legitimate.

I have been told that doctors used to think PMS and even menstrual cramps were “fake.”

Tachys's avatar

I think the issue is that there are no tests for it. The reports of pain are subjective. My understanding that fibromyalgia can only be diagnosed by a rheumatologist. I believe it is real, but diagnosed incorrectly sometimes, by exasperated family doctors.

wildpotato's avatar

@bookish1 Some still do, according to this interesting article. And now it also turns out that ulcers are not psychosomatic either.

Aster's avatar

No callous person here. I asked only because I think I have it but my daughter said that all her doctor friends say it’s fake.
I have many, many tender points, irritable bladder and other symptoms so there is nothing whatsoever callous about asking. I just wanted to know @augustlan , if my daughter and the doctors were mistaken. Oftentimes, for reasons known only to themselves, people like to let off steam by attacking the questioner.

Mariah's avatar

I can’t tell you first hand, but I have no doubt that plenty of people, including our dear Auggie, suffer from very real fibro pain. I would be ripping heads off if people were crying “fake” about my disease. Shit.

augustlan's avatar

I don’t think I (or anyone) was attacking you, @Aster. But we have every right to be offended by this question. If you didn’t mean to offend anyone, you might consider wording things differently the next time around.

Aster's avatar

@Mariah, I understand. I got the impression that the doctors tend to act as if the patient really has fibro but, behind closed doors of cocktail parties, they roll their eyes so to speak. Of course, there are exceptions. I went to a GP a couple years ago and he asked me if I had pains in my hands a lot and I said no. So I think he was considering fibro at that time. It was actually a sort of nervous breakdown. So I had a CBC…

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