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Depression in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Understanding & Treating this Common Overlapping Condition


Updated June 11, 2014

Sharon Dominick/Getty Images

Depression is common in people with fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue syndrome.

Sharon Dominick/Getty Images

Depression often goes hand-in-hand with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). While these conditions aren't caused by depression, getting proper treatment for depression can help you manage your FMS or ME/CFS more effectively.

When illness strikes, many people become depressed because of how they feel, the changes forced upon them, and fears about their health. Chronic illness can also threaten job security, relationships, and plans for the future.

While depression is common in chronic illness, it's even more common in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome than in many illnesses of comparable severity. No one knows for certain why that is, but theories include:

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

The similarities and frequent overlap have lead many people, including some doctors, to make the assumption that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are just different manifestations of depression. However, a 2008 study says looked at the available literature on the fibromyalgia/depression link, and researchers concluded that the findings don't support that assumption.

No matter the connection, we know it's important to diagnose and treat comorbid depression, and proper treatment can really help you deal better with your illness. About.com Depression Guide Nancy Schimelpfening is an expert on these issues and has a wealth of information that can help you decide whether you need treatment, what kinds of treatments may work for you and more.

Am I Depressed? Depression Symptoms Screening Quiz

At some point, just about everyone with a chronic illness asks themselves, "Am I depressed?" It's normal to have low periods while adjusting to the changes that illness imposes. It's important to know at what point normal emotions become major depression. This quiz can help.

Our symptoms are very similar to those of depression, so it can be hard to tell which condition is causing which problem. It pays to educate yourself about symptoms and to work with your doctor to decide whether you are depressed.

Also See:


Why Am I Depressed? Depression Causes

Why do some people with FMS and ME/CFS become depressed while others don't? Learn more about the possible causes of depression.

Also See:


Drug Treatments: How Do Antidepressants Work?

Antidepressants are common for treating not only depression, but FMS and ME/CFS as well. Get a better understanding of the changes they're making.

Also See:


Counseling: Getting Therapy for Depression

While depression does have physical components, a therapist can help you deal with the emotional issues behind your depression and can be especially valuable when you're trying to live with a chronic, debilitating illness.

Also See:


If you don't find the depression information you're looking for here, explore Nancy's site:


Chi-Un Pae, et al. Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2008 Aug;24(8):2359-71. "The relationship between fibromyalgia and major depressive disorder: a comprehensive review."

"Psychosocial factors and rheumatic disease" UpToDate. Accessed: January 2009.

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