Does Personality Relate to Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia development may be influenced by personality

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Can your personality affect the likelihood that you'll develop a health condition? Some scientists believe that may be the case with fibromyalgia.

There is no known cause for fibromyalgia, a condition that is characterized by chronic widespread pain for unknown reasons. A new study investigated the behavioral and psychological factors of the disorder.

The researchers discovered common ground in the personalities and behaviors of patients who suffer from the condition.

They found that fibromyalgia patients were more likely to avoid things or experiences that scared them, have low self-esteem or ability to set long-term goals, but easily lose themselves in their work or doing things for others.

"Personality type and fibromyalgia may be interconnected."

The study was conducted by researchers in Turkey, led by Asli Gencay-Can at Yenisehir State Hospital in Bursa, Turkey. They write that their study could help identify patients who would benefit from psychotherapy and certain drugs.

Their research has its base in previous studies that observed similarities between fibromyalgia patients. These similarities are mostly negative: Dependence, passivity, victimization, irritability, avoidance, and maladaptive response to loss. One study found that fibromyalgia patients have a harder time recovering from stressful events.

The Turkish researchers used the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) to assess the personalities of 42 female patients with fibromyalgia. They used only females because the disorder is much more common in women than men.

TCI was developed by a doctor named Robert Cloninger to measure personality, and has been used to understand the biological basis of personality.

The TCI model splits personality into temperament and character. A person is born with a temperament, but character changes, influenced by where you are and your experiences.

The TCI is essentially a questionnaire to determine where you score on different temperament and character traits. The researchers compared the scores of those with fibromyalgia to healthy controls.

They found that fibromyalgia patients had significantly higher harm avoidance (HA) and self-transcendence (ST) scores, and lower self-directedness (SD) scores than the healthy controls.

They wrote, “Individuals with high HA scores tend to be cautious, careful, fearful, tense, nervous, doubtful, passive, negativistic, insecure, or pessimistic, even in situations that do not worry other people. They also feel very tired because of their low energy level.”

“Individuals with low SD scores correlated with low self-esteem, lack of long-term goals, and difficulties in accepting responsibility,” they continued. “Higher ST scores have also been found to be related with a higher level of posttraumatic stress.”

These traits may be related to the common experience of a disorder that causes pain and fatigue, and the paper does not suggest that the traits are correlated to the patient's personality before the development of her disease.

The study was limited by its small size, and it's not possible to generalize the results across all fibromyalgia patients.

The study was published in the December 2011 issue of Rheumatology International.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 3, 2012
Last Updated:
January 5, 2012