Photo Credit: Cathy Yeulet / iStockphoto.com
How a Therapist Can Help
The statistics are in, and they are shocking: as many as 6 million Americans have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
That means that about one in every 50 people in the United States experience the pain, tenderness, and lack of energy that comes with this condition, according to a study conducted by the American College of Rheumatology in 2004. In the past 11 years the numbers could have grown even more.
The majority of people with fibro report tightness in their mouth and jaw, and half have intense headaches. Most of these people are women, since seven females are diagnosed for every one male.
The physical effects are well-known; however, the lesser-known mental health effects are just as troublesome.
People with fibro are almost 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder than people without it. The two conditions are cyclical; factors that accompany depression, including mental stress, emotional stress and worry, are known to exacerbate fibro symptoms, and suffering from fibro symptoms exacerbates depression.
Many people seeking change from this vicious cycle have found therapy incredibly helpful. Professional counseling can produce great results that target your mental and physical health simultaneously. By addressing both, rather than only one or the other, you have a better chance of bringing balance and happiness to your life.
Benefits of Therapy
The benefits of professional counseling reach far and wide. Here’s how a therapist can help you and your fibro:
Provide Education and Support
During the therapy process, your therapist can become your partner in discovering aspects of your fibro and mental health that were previously unknown. By gaining more knowledge about the topics, they will seem less overwhelming and more manageable.
Education might lead to some short-term anxiety and discomfort, but the long-term benefit is immeasurable.
The support a therapist can provide is invaluable as well. They will provide support through empathy when symptoms are high and encouragement when symptoms are lower. Therapists are highly skilled in assessing your condition and providing what you need when you need it.
When suffering from depression, it can be easy to fall into bad habits. Habits like choosing the fast food dinner over the home-cooked meal due to convenience or lack of energy; like napping during the day, making falling asleep and staying asleep at night more challenging; like showering less often or letting your home become messy and disorganized.
By finding support for fibromyalgia from family, friends, and therapists or support groups, you can create a life that is healthy and satisfying.
Therapists can help you accomplish your self-care goals and improve those bad habits. They will assess your current status and work with you to establish a reasonable goal. From there, you will work together to prepare and take action on simple thought and behavior changes that lead to impactful results.
Exercise is one treatment option for fibro that comes highly recommended by professionals. Interestingly, it is an effective treatment for depression, with low risks and high rewards.
Knowing exercise is helpful and actually exercising are very different things, though. A therapist can help by addressing your concerns or reluctance regarding exercise. With this information, they can give you tips to retrain your brain to think in a different, more positive way.
Then, you will work together to build a schedule for increased physical activity that is agreeable. Adding incentives and rewards will make the activity more likely to be completed.
Therapists are very creative people — they can find new solutions to old problems you have not considered previously. For example, your therapist might find a form of physical activity you actually enjoy rather than relegating you to a walking program.
People with fibro tend to have issues with anxiety as well as depression, as the physical tension and soreness from fibro can spark feelings of worry and fear.
Relaxation techniques learned from a therapist can improve the physical and mental symptoms regardless of their source. Your therapist can recommend the most helpful interventions and techniques based on your needs, wants and abilities.
For example, if your mind is constantly racing with fearful, worrisome ideas, working on a relaxation that requires a clear, calm mind will be a colossal waste of your resources. Instead, employing one like autogenic training that does not try to clear your mind will be a better fit.
Similarly, if you do not carry much physical tension, doing a progressive muscle relaxation will yield little benefit; your therapist might choose a guided imagery instead. Whatever relaxation you use, decreased stress and anxiety will lead to decreased fibro symptoms.
Therapists, like the ones that utilize cognitive behavioral therapy, are not interested in creating a relationship with you built on dependence and necessity. Their goal is to provide you with the above skills in a way that permits you to take this information and apply it to your life independently.
By transferring the skills outside of the office, you will gain a renewed sense of power and control in your life. You can monitor your symptoms, identify the triggers, and work towards a reasonable solution. This self-assurance is one of the best stress-busters available.
There is no denying that therapy is not for everyone. Some people are functioning well enough in their life to happily move throughout the days. On the other hand, if you are experiencing periods of high fibro symptoms paired with issues related to low mood, sleeping problems, irritability, high stress, worry, or tension, therapy could be a great addition to your life. A mere 60 minutes per week could lead to a great result and happier life.