Symptoms of Severe Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that's difficult to diagnose. This article defines the illness and its symptoms, focusing on the most serious types.
Symptoms of Severe Fibromyalgia

Last update: 09 December, 2020

According to an EPISER study of the Spanish Society of Rheumatology, an estimated 2.4 percent of the Spanish population suffers from fibromyalgia. Of this percentage between 20 – 30 percent have symptoms of severe fibromyalgia and suffer pain that seriously affects their life.

Fibromyalgia is a condition that’s characterized by musculoskeletal pain. The pain appears or intensifies when specific points on the patient’s body are pressed.

Although it affects both sexes, it’s more prevalent in women. For every man, there are approximately nine women with the illness. It usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 35. There are other risk factors as well. For example, if you have a family history of chronic pain. Also, if you’ve suffered from rheumatic diseases, trauma, or infectious diseases. Another factor is if you’ve experienced high psychosocial stress levels.

How do people with fibromyalgia feel?

As its name suggests fibro – fibers mio – muscles algia – pain, the main symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. In fact, patients with this condition often complain that “everything hurts”. This is because it produces an unpleasant and widespread feeling throughout the whole body. Furthermore, this pain tends to gradually appear in particular areas of the body. The most commonly affected areas are the elbows, hands, knees, neck, and hips.

Back view of woman, showing area affected by severe fibromyalgia.

It seems that the intensity of the pain can vary due to climate changes. It also fluctuates over time and tends to worsen in the mornings and late at night. In addition to pain, other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Fatigue. 80 to 90 percent of sufferers say they feel very tired and that any activity requires a great deal of physical and mental effort.
  • Body stiffness. 77 percent of sufferers say they feel general stiffness in their body. These symptoms tend to worsen in the mornings.
  • Sleep disorders. 70 to 80 percent of sufferers report sleep disturbances. According to some studies, the patient feels pain and fatigue the following day.
  • Paresthesia. 63 percent of sufferers report feeling tingling sensations, especially in their hands.
  • Psychological disturbances. About 25 percent of sufferers experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. This is mostly due to the pain they suffer.
  • Fibro fog (brain fog) or cognitive disturbances. Many patients also experience a decrease in their mental clarity, concentration, memory, and verbal expression.

Types of fibromyalgia

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized fibromyalgia as a disease in 2002.  Since then, there have been several attempts to identify different types. Many of the definitions have been based on psychopathological differences between patients.

Recently, a study that classifies the different types on the basis of the other illnesses that tend to occur alongside it was conducted. The study was based on previous research.

According to this classification, there are four types:

  • Idiopathic (type I ). Sufferers in this group experience high levels of pain but they have a normal psychopathological and cognitive profile. Furthermore, they have no other related diseases and the condition doesn’t significantly affect their life.
  • Moderate or associated with a chronic illness (type II). In this case, the condition is related to a systemic disease or regional pain syndrome. Although there are some limitations, with proper treatment, the patient can lead a healthy life and their quality of life won’t be affected.
  • Severe and secondary to a psychiatric illness (type III). This is the most serious type. The appearance of the illness is connected with a previous psychiatric illness.
  • Simulated. The patient believes they have fibromyalgia, either consciously or unconsciously. In fact, they may even develop it.

Severe fibromyalgia

As we mentioned above, severe fibromyalgia is related to previous psychiatric illness. It’s the most serious type, as sufferers are often unable to function normally, both in their personal and their work lives. In fact, in severe cases, they might be registered as disabled.

Apart from suffering the general symptoms, patients with severe fibromyalgia also experience considerable psychological imbalances. They suffer disturbances in the psychosocial domain, equating to high levels of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, they experience cognitive disassociation. This manifests itself as catastrophizing thoughts and low self-regulation of pain levels.

In these cases, the severe fibromyalgia should be treated mainly in mental health centers.

A woman in pain, suffering severe fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of severe fibromyalgia are related to psychological disturbances.

Symptoms and characteristics of severe fibromyalgia

Sufferers of severe fibromyalgia commonly don’t have enough resources to cope with stress, they’re unable to cope with problems, and they have an inhibited personality. Furthermore, they tend to experience suppressed anger, rumination, lack of confidence, and low self-esteem, amongst other symptoms.

In addition, sufferers exhibit more avoidant personality traits. They also tend to be dependent, obsessive, paranoid, and more inhibited than the general population. However, despite popular opinion, they demonstrate fewer histrionic and narcissistic traits.

Knowing the different types of fibromyalgia makes it easier to conceptualize the illness. And it’s essential that the right diagnosis for each individual case be given so that the best treatment can be chosen.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Atzeni, F., Talotta, R., Masala, I.F., Giacomelli, C., Conversano, C., Nucera, V., … Bazzichi, L. (2019). One year in review: fibromyalgia. Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, 116(1), 3-10.
  • Belenguer, R., Ramos-Casals, M., Siso, A. y Rivera, J. (2009). Clasificación de la fibromialgia. Revisión sistemática de la literatura. Reumatología clínica, 5(2), 55-62.
  • Moyano, S. Kilstein, J.G. y de Miguel, C.A. (2014). New diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia: here to stay? Reumatología clínica, 11(4), 210-214.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.