Linking together the causes of fibromyalgia: “Central Sensitization”

“The amygdala in the emotional center sees and hears everything that occurs to us instantaneously and is the trigger point for the fight or flight response “, Daniel Goleman.

Many years ago I had hoped that it wouldn’t take long before most would finally give up searching for viral/bacterial/hormonal or other CAUSES of fibromyalgia and agree with my theory that this demon is caused by a hyper-aroused nervous system in highly sensitive anxious persons! My book was the first to write about that and now I find that in the magazine Psychology Today , August 2011, an article written by Andrea Bartz, suggests that as well!

I have laid out these ideas as: fibromyalgia= highly sensitive persons who have had acute or chronic trauma in their lives (psychological and/or physical) and have developed a hyperaroused nervous system, chronic anxiety, and an amygdala that is hyper-responsive to fight or flight tendencies. This is called central sensitization, that is, being hypersensitive to sounds, stress, weather changes, light and many other conditions that can affect the nervous system and which develops slowly over time.

What has not yet been documented by many is why it is perceived to be more prevalent in women, or at least why it is reported more frequently by them. I developed this theory further than what I have just cited and suggest that because the majority of women in society are generally the caregivers of others and have developed highly intuitive, empathetic personality traits, they are more prone to a predisposition to fibromyalgia if they are overly empathetic. But, this is somewhat simplistic view as many men are also highly sensitive, and the relatively recent documentation of men suffering from PTSD is now gaining more credibility. All people who are  highly sensitive persons and are overly empathetic /overly compassionate, and  suffer greatly from chronic anxiety are prone to fibromyalgia. I realize that there are many men with fibromyalgia who also are HSPs.

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As roles change somewhat in society and more HSP men become highly empathetic caregivers it may be that fibromyalgia will have been under reported in men in the past. Not all caregivers are overly empathetic, but interestingly, in the hundreds of people I have interviewed either formally or informally, I have found nurses and social workers to have a high rate of fibromyalgia, particularly if they themselves have experienced severe trauma in their own lives. The key is not female vs males, but rather certain personality traits set up conditions which often result in fibromyalgia. Interestingly, I read recently that children who had a mother who was depressive had a larger amygdala than the usual size of the amygdala. Could it be that these children were raised in a somewhat unstable home situation, always on the alert, always anxious? Too early to even speculate about these new findings in the research. Even more dangerous is the idea that the  mother is responsible for one more bad thing in a person’s life! Mother blaming has been far too common in the past.

I have one major differing theory about HSPs than the psychologist, Elaine Aron and the article written by  Bartz: I do not believe that we are necessarily born with the tendency, but that it is primarily socially induced. However, neither the psychologists nor I, the sociologist, can prove this point and I am not sure it needs validation. More to the point, there is the possibility of changing the brain and to establish new pathways. Living as an HSP may be appreciating that it can be  a gift, but it can also be a burden. There are numerous strategies  I have described elsewhere and it is too bad that those who write about HSPs do not focus on them in order to make our lives less prone to intense sensitivity.

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