Monday, March 14, 2011

Does Fibromyalgia Have a Personality Type?

Have you ever wondered if your personality might have caused fibromyalgia? Do you think Type-A people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia?  Are you a stress-junkie? Live life on the edge?  This an emotionally charged issue and my best answer is that I don't have any answers. Numerous clinical studies haven't given us anything definitive either.  I can provide my own thoughts on the 'typical' fibromyalgia profile. As with everything, it is up to the reader to decide what is true for them and what is not.

What is a Type-A personality? It has become a household word and is associated with people that are perfectionistic, impatient, competitive and work-obsessed. Personally, I wonder how many Type-A personalities with FMS go undiagnosed for years because they often ignore or do not recognize the red flags that indicate they should slow down. Type-A personalities are accustomed to pushing themselves hard and are often slower to respond to symptoms. I visited many websites as research for this blog. One site in particular was quite revealing. It dealt exclusively with the subject of Type-A personality traits and the possible link to FMS. Twenty two people responded with comments, all of them being women. At least 5 of the respondents admitted to being Type-A personalities. Interestingly, their comments were lengthy, error- free and well thought out, demonstrating the very qualities Type-A people possess.

Statistics have shown that FMS patients are found to be, in general, better educated, wealthier and more likely to be married.  Likely, this finding is attributable to a lower economic class that does not have the same access to diagnosis and health care. The former group of patients average 13 health care visits per year and 3 to 4 times the number of lifetime hospitalizations. Fibromyalgia patients are overwhelmingly female (80-90%) and the average age of diagnosis is 45.  The average time from onset to diagnosis is 5 - 8 years.

It is interesting to note that adults with fibromyalgia syndrome are 3-4 times more likely to suffer from depression according to 'The Annals of Psychiatry' which states: ...' in general, patients with FMS had a personality style similar to patients with a major depressive disorder (MDD).' In the medical world, fibromyalgia is associated with mood disorders.*

It would seem the jury is split on this issue. While some suggest that personality traits and depression are linked to fibromyalgia, much of these observations are subjective rather than objective. A recent Swedish study was conducted on 110 women to determine if personality traits could be linked to fibromyalgia. No difference was found between the patients and a control group of women.* I don't think one study should be considered as absolute proof - another study may arrive at a different conclusion altogether.

How much of a role does stress play in developing or worsening FMS?  If it plays any role at all, how important is it to identify the kind of stress considered to be responsible for the onset of FMS? Is it prolonged, chronic stress? A one-time traumatic event?  One thing is certain: self-induced stress is not uncommon for women, especially those who feel they must put others' needs ahead of their own. Let's not forget the self-confessed stress junkies that thrive on chaos and adrenaline. And the worry-warts! Some people cannot seem to stop worrying, myself being one of them. It can become so out of hand that I worry about worrying too much!  Perhaps the role stress plays in FMS is over-emphasized. If a patient complains of having too much stress - particularly women - some physicians will treat them as a psychiatric patient without performing further investigation. Omission to search for a physical cause is highly negligent on the part of the physician. Find another doctor!

Perhaps a larger question is why does our Western society encourage and even reward the Type-A mentality? Just who is it that needs to change? Does fibromyalgia have a personality type? Fact or fiction? It would seem that research seems to raise more questions than it answers.

Fibro Quiz

While searching online, I found numerous sites with tests to determine if your personality puts you at risk of devloping fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and other pain syndromes. While interesting, it is my opinion they should be taken with a large grain of salt. Go to:

* Swedish Study:,en

* The Annals of Psychiatry -


  1. I don't buy the "type A" personality hype at all. If it was true, I'd be perfectly healthy. I have always been rather leisurely, have never been a caretaker to others at the expense of myself, and never used a career as a marker of my self-worth. I am also surprisingly free of depression; I enjoy my life as much as possible.

    I realize that I don't speak for everyone. But I thought you might not mind hearing from someone who does not fit the supposed personality profile.

  2. Hi

    Yes, I welcome comments. I decided to keep a neutral slant when writing this blog. There really is no solid evidence either way as to a certain personality type. Still, it's uncanny how many TYpe A's I've come across with fibro or other syndromes. I realize that is merely subjective. So, who really knows, huh? It was interesting to research.

    Thanks for writing.

  3. Hi. Why don't you give me your blog address and I can become a follower and vice versa?

  4. Sure thing!

  5. I know 3 people with FMS--all diagnosed. One is a very close friend. The commonalities, though not scientific, are interesting to me. All three worry greatly almost to a compulsive extent. This worry enterfaces with all aspects of their lives. Other aspect is the large amount of drama each has in their lives. Challenging spousal relationships, family drama, and friendships that added to drama. They also view life's upheavels as directed toward them personally. Someone one is always "out to get them." Does this resonate with anyone else?

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