A Quarter of People With Fibromyalgia Show Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder appear to be connected. New research shows that a quarter of fibromyalgia patients who were screened tested positive for bipolar symptoms. Because these diseases are found in tandem, it’s known as comorbidity. If you have one disorder going on, despite their differences, you might have both.

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Credit to flickr.com user CJS*64. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

The causes of fibromyalgia are yet to be discovered, and up to 5% of the population may be affected. More common in women, fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes muscle and joint aches. Other symptoms are fatigue, and, occasionally, depression.

Dr. William Wilke from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and his colleagues gave 128 patients with fibromyalgia four questionnaires. The first was the Mood Disorder Questionnaire (MDQ) for bipolar disorder, to determine the link between bipolar and fibromyalgia. Next was the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) for depression. The scientists also used the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) for daytime sleepiness, and the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire Disability Index (FIQ‐DI) to assess for functional capacity.

According to the MDQ screen, just over 25% of the patients were likely to have bipolar disorder, demonstrating a clear link between fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. People who showed symptoms of bipolar also suffered from more severe depressions than people who didn’t show symptoms of bipolar disorder, which is really no surprise, given bipolar disorder’s depressions.

The BDI’s results were also of interest: 79% of the fibromyalgia patients were clinically depressed. Of those people, up to a third of the people who suffered from depression also reported symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The ESS showed that 52% of the patients with fibromyalgia–just over half–experienced daytime sleepiness, which doesn’t relate to bipolar disorder, but is interesting nonetheless.

Wilke’s team pointed out that some medications that treat fibromyalgia may also trigger mania in bipolar patients, and therefore doctors are urged to be cautious.

So, if you have fibromyalgia, you might want to talk to your doctor about the potential for bipolar disorder before you take medications to treat the disease, because those medications can trigger manic episodes. Similarly, if you have bipolar disorder, those muscle aches and fatigue might be something more; get screened for fibromyalgia.

Author: Cassandra Stout

Freelance writer Cassandra Stout blogs weekly at the award-winning Bipolar Parent, a comprehensive resource for parents with mental illnesses. She also blogs monthly at the International Bipolar Foundation website (IPBF.org). Her work has been published in the anthology, How the Light Gets In. Cassandra holds degrees from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Journalism. She has been a judge for the Pacific Northwest Writers' Association literary contest for nine years, where her memoir, Committed, recently placed as a finalist. She balances her literary work with raising her children, feeding her cat, and managing her bipolar disorder.

6 thoughts on “A Quarter of People With Fibromyalgia Show Bipolar Disorder Symptoms”

  1. I live with arthritis in many of my joints and I had previously been diagnosed with good old manic depression. I am working on pain management without taking a mood stabilizer. My moods would be fine if I could move around more.

    1. I, too, live with rheumatoid arthritis, which I’ve had since I was a kid. It’s terrible, isn’t it? I hope you stay warm this winter, and that you don’t suffer too many flare-ups!

      1. I got something form a hemp store yesterday and today I have a whole new range of motion. I was out and about. Maybe something will work.

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