Depression in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

A common overlap condition

Depression often goes hand in hand with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS). Despite stereotypes, these illnesses are not psychological and are not caused by depression.

Still, getting the right treatment for depression is important to your well-being. It can also help you manage your FMS or ME / CFS more effectively.

When disease strikes, many people become depressed because of how they feel, the changes imposed on them, and fears about their health. Chronic illnesses can also threaten job security, relationships, and plans for the future. Any of those things can lead to depression. It is a normal response to a bad situation and it does not mean that you are weak.

While depression is common in chronic illnesses, it is even more common in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome than in many illnesses of comparable severity. No one knows for sure why this is so, but theories include:

  • Common underlying causes;
  • Poor acceptance of these diseases by the medical community, family and friends;
  • Ineffectiveness of many treatments.
  • Situations like these can provoke feelings like demoralization and hopelessness.

The similarities and frequent overlap have led many people, including some doctors, to assume that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are just different manifestations of depression. However, a 2008 study examined the available literature on the link between fibromyalgia and depression, and the researchers concluded that the findings do not support that assumption.

Regardless of the connection, we know that diagnosing and treating comorbid depression is important. We offer a wealth of information that can help you decide if you need treatment, what types of treatments may work for you, and more.

You are depressed?

At some point, almost everyone with a chronic illness asks, “Am I depressed?” It is normal to have low periods as you adjust to the changes imposed by the disease. It is important to know when normal emotions turn into major depression. Our symptoms are very similar to those of depression, so it can be difficult to know which condition is causing which problem. 1 It’s worth learning about your symptoms and working with your doctor to decide if you’re depressed.


Why do some people with FMS and ME / CFS get depressed and others don’t? It may help you understand the causes of this very real disease. It is not a character flaw, it is more likely to do with your physiology.

Drug treatments

Because you are dealing with a disease that has physical components, you may benefit from medications that alter your brain chemistry, such as antidepressants.

Antidepressants are common to treat not only depression, but also FMS and ME / CFS. Get a better understanding of the changes they are making.

Unfortunately, the risk of side effects from these drugs is very real. You should know that it is dangerous to stop taking these medicines. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the proper way to stop using them.

Weaning can be difficult on your body, but you can take steps to make it easier.


While depression has physical components, a therapist can help you deal with the emotional issues behind your depression. Counseling can also be valuable in adjusting to life with a chronic and debilitating illness.


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