Friday, September 13, 2013

Can Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Really Help Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often used to teach Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain sufferers how to cope with their illnesses. It is said to help treat many conditions and diseases like FM, back pain, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. It helps determine how well a patient manages their pain and teaches them how to take control of it. Depression plays a key role in the inability to be proactive in our treatment. So, our state of mind is very important when it comes to getting better.

Studies show that when FM patients effectively deal with the particular symptoms and over-lapping conditions of their illness and of their lives, they feel better. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) increases a patients' belief in their own power to cope with the things they face and helps them develop ways for dealing with depression and stressful situations.

The goal of CBT is to make patients aware of self-defeating behaviors and emotions so that they can be changed consciously. Healthy, positive thoughts and emotions supersede the negative, resulting in a powerful influence on your life and lessening your pain. Over time, the idea that you are helpless against the pain goes away and, instead, you learn that you can manage the pain. Many studies show an improved quality of life and overall reduction in average pain scores.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown to be as beneficial as anti-depressant medications for patients with depression. In one large study there were considerably higher results of reaction and remission from depression when cognitive behavior therapy was used in addition to anti-depressant medications than when either method was used alone. CBT is used to change the patients negative feelings and social withdrawal.

Cognitive therapy is very helpful in defining and setting limits (something I know I have a problem with) and is vitally important for FM patients. Many "Fibromytes" live their lives in extremes. We push ourselves too far and suddenly we break-down. This reverses the way we view ourselves, we become demoralized, feel worthless, and give up our power to cope with the simplest tasks. One important goal of cognitive therapy is to help us find a middle ground. Patients learn to prioritize their responsibilities, and drop some of the less important tasks or delegate them to others. My biggest problem is just saying "NO". I want to please everyone and prove to them and myself that I can do whatever is asked of me. When I reach my limits and cannot complete a task, I tend to go through a period of self-loathing. Learning to say "NO" and other coping skills can ultimately lead to a more manageable life. We can learn to view ourselves and others in a better light.

CBT is also a useful treatment for anxiety disorders, including phobias, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. In CBT, patients learn to be aware of and change negative thinking patterns. It is a way to gain conscious control over unwanted thoughts or feelings which are, as a rule, connected to anxiety. Those of us who suffer from panic attacks learn our bodies' negative responses and actions during an attack and CBT helps us find ways to counteract the reason for the attacks. CBT can also help improve quality of sleep so we can hopefully reduce some of our medications.

Cognitive therapy requires approximately six to twenty sessions that last one hour. The cognitive therapy program may involve keeping a diary to look at all aspects of your daily activities, coping skills and mind-set. This helps you learn what changes need to be made, limits that need to be set and a way to organize and prioritize activities. Many of these things contribute to stress and can make your pain better or worse. Setting limits keeps us from getting discouraged and helps us learn to take each task one step at a time. CBT also helps us confront negative thoughts and emotions and we are taught how to reverse them. It all boils down to self-perception: self-loathing, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, negative self-talk, believing that other people view us the same way. CBT helps us reverse those thought processes so we can pick ourselves up and keep going. Patients will learn to find things we once enjoyed doing and make the time to do them with the help of learning how to schedule activities without being overwhelmed.

As we know accomplishing too much too soon can often cause a relapse of symptoms. We should respect these relapses and slow down. We should not consider them a sign of failure. That's just how Fibromyalgia works. Don't be so hard on yourself!

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