Highly Sensitive People and Fibromyalgia

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Do you have fibromyalgia because you are a Highly Sensitive Person?! Maybe.

I am a highly sensitive person for sure. I am not sure if I was born this way, or if my childhood evoked it. But I was probably born this way, because my mother was also Highly Sensitive and so is my son.

Of course, my mother also had the type of traumatic childhood that could cause this, but my son has not. and He was definitely highly sensitive on the day he was born. :) I remember that well. lol.

The reason I am writing this is because I recently read this post about Higly Sensitive people and the link to fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue

I have not read the Highly Sensitive Person Book, but I have read online articles by the author, and basically she says that approximately 20% of the population is highly sensitive and always has been. She says this is good and natural and back in the old days Highly sensitive people were very valuable because we sensed danger before everyone else.

That makes total sense. Total and complete sense to me. That explains both why highly sensitive people would exist and would have evolved, and also why we would be more prone to developing fibromyalgia than the average person.

In the paper I referenced above, the author talks about a link, but does NOT say that being a highly sensitive person will make you more likely to get fibro, unless maybe if you are stressed, not sleeping, have a major infection, or have had a lot of trauma.

For me, in order to heal from Fibromyalgia, part of what I had to do was what I call emotional sculpting – which meant I had to change 2 major things. 1) What emotion I normally hung out in (it was resentment or anger – now it’s contentment or happiness) and 2) how I reacted to things.

I had to learn how to let things go. I had to learn how to choose the better thought that would allow me to calm down. I had to learn how to get calm after something got me riled up. I also had to step away from life a little bit. I learned to choose what would keep me calm and happy and stay away from situations that would get me all worked up.

There is no drama in my life. There is no angst. I avoid all of that. And if that means I stay home, so be it. I like home. If that means I don’t go to family gatherings, so be it. Other people may think I’m weird or stand-offish, but when I am one on one with people I tell them why.

“I’m very sensitive. I protect myself a lot so that I don’t get fibromyalgia again.”

If they don’t or can’t accept it, then they go on my “to avoid” list.

So how about you? Are you highly sensitive with fibro? Do you think there is a link between the two for you?

30 Days to Feel Better From Fibromyalgia is my book on how to feel better fast that anyone should be able to read, even on their worst day!

(it's broken up into a little bit of info and a restorative exercise a day) Click Here to See it!

20 thoughts on “Highly Sensitive People and Fibromyalgia

  1. Wondering how to get to the place w/o any drama, w/o any angst. I have 3 busy & challenging children ages 6-12 & a husband that is stress & anxiety prone as well as battling an addiction. It’s leading my down a very difficult path in life & leaving me tied up in knots & stressed out. I definitely think it is very much linked to my fibromyalgia, but outside of deserting my children & marriage & living on my own, I won’t have a drama free or stress free environment. Yoga, prayer & doing things for myself help, but it’s not near enough. Any suggestions when those causing you the most stress are the ones you love & live with?

    • Hi T,

      That does sound stressful. :( By the time my son was 6, a lot of our “issues” had calmed down to almost nothing. Now that he is 9 it’s almost like living with another adult. He is fabulous. But he’s homeschooled, so we don’t have any school issues.

      My husband never struggled with addiction but he did contribute to my stress a lot I felt – or maybe how I reacted to him contributed to my own stress. I worked and worked and worked on it forever, and now things are pretty smooth in our family.

      I’m not sure what would work for you – do you read any Byron Katie? She might say that you could just stop seeing the situations as stressful by using the work? I did a lot of her work and it helped a lot.

  2. hi lisa

    fantastic post that is soooooo me as far back as i remember,i realy realy think i have forgiving people but every now and again old resentment and anger keep creeping up,usualy towards my husband ( 10 years verbal abuse) now he is a changed man (therapy i sent him too & not drinking anymore) so cant understand how i cant completely let go what is your tips for replacing resentment and anger with conntentment and calm. i find your posts more helpfull than any other fibro news out there thankyou for spending your time to help others
    love michele x (scotland)

    • Hi Michele, thank you! and I get it – there is someone in my life that I may never forgive. and at this point in my life I’m ok with that. It’s not my husband though. I’ve done pretty good with my husband lately. I’m very deliberate about it though. It’s important when you see someone every day. My resentment towrds him probably hurt me more than it did him.

  3. I am an HSP and I have fibro. I was highly sensitive from birth, especially to noise. I, too, enjoy home and work hard to create a quiet, peaceful home. I find that my fibro is worse on days when I am exposed to lots of noisy people and bright artificial light, especially office lighting.

    I use music to mask noise. I also have to shut my office door to block out voices. I have lamps in my office and lots of fabbric to muffle sounds. I am blessed with a great job and the freedom to do these things.

    My sensitivity is sometimes a blessing and sometimes a curse. I am sensitive to others which can be very helpful in my work as a counselor. But I have had to learn to let other people’s problems be their problems and not my own. That has taken work on my part.

    I am very sensitive to color which helps when designing jewelry or matching clothes. But that same sensitivity has also caused me to have to repaint rooms when I got the color “wrong”!

    I also like quiet exercise like yoga. I find it really settles the nervous system down, especially after an over-stimulating day. Even just laying on my yoga mat for a while helps.

    I have learned that my “flare-ups” are usually caused by bulldozing my way through whatever I am doing, ignoring my sensitivity and the signals my body is giving me. One great thing I have learned to ask my body is, “What do you need right now?”. I am often surprised that the answer is usually something simple like “I need to go to the bathroom” or “I need something to eat.”

    Until I read The Highly Sensitive Person, I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. I felt an enormous sense of relief finding out that there are many others just like me. I enjoy sharing this information with other HSPs. They, too, are relieved to find out that they are “normal.”

    Society doesn’t beat a path to our door. Being sensitive is not a valued trait in this country. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have value. We are the artists, musicians, spiritual leaders, counselors and nurturers. We make life beautiful and bearable.

    So to other HSPs with fibro, I would encourage you to embrace your sensitivity. Learn to use the gifts of this quality. Learn to listen to your body and to take care of it. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed of your sensitivity. You wouldn’t be you without it!

    • Hi Anne! what a great comment. thank you! I think my greatest gift at this point with my sensitivity is probably the way it allows me to be in tune or attuned to my son. I know what he is feeling before he does. We have a great relationship because of it. thank you again. :) (oh, and I agree, yoga is a great gift to us HSPers)

  4. Reply to T Nelson

    One thing that has helped me in dealing with a family member with an addiction has been Al-Anon. You can find a group near you on their website http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/. Working the twelve steps is a great way to learn to live with FM, too. For example, Step One could read: we admitted we were powerless over fibromyalgia and that our lives had become unmanageable. Step Two: we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity (something each of us with fibro needs as our lives seem insanely difficult).

    Hang in there! I have had FM for over 20 years but managed to raise three kids and have a very happy life, but as I learned in Al-Anon, just one day at a time. You can do it, too.

  5. Hi Lisa,
    Great post and terrific discussion. I am a highly sensitive person and feel compelled to read this book. I think I am going to have to buy it as the world definitely overwhelms me at times. I am very busy as a mother of 3, two boys and a girl I hardly get to see. I go to college, work part time. I am also starting an Advocare business plus am getting my B.A. in complementary and alternative medicine. I have found out that I am a highly sensitive person, an empath, a healer and I have Fibro. My Fibro is rarely bothering me anymore. It flares up when I am stressed. I too have an addict as a hubby. I am checking out a new church this weekend. I am learning how to live in peace with even the most difficult people. It’s a worthy skill. I do not regret or am not ashamed of any of my characteristics. I am finally embracing who I am at 35 years old. Hooray!!! I am almost pain free. My goal is to be pain/stress free by the end of summer.

  6. Thank you, Lisa.
    I’ve just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia the symptoms of which I have been living with for many years. Your site is a huge source of comfort for me and I’ve been mulling over your suggestion to “make myself happy.” It sounds so simple and though getting there might not be, using it as a sort of mantra has already helped these past few days since my diagnosis.
    I am writing on the sensitivity section because I wanted to share with other sufferers or survivors of, how this revelation you’ve given us has helped me to reflect on the sensitivity factor: how my “sensitive” psyche has manifested in my body.
    First of all, the handling of stress(mishandling!)in my family has always been one of putting our heads in the sand and ignoring whatever ailed or annoyed us. My pain and suffering threshold would have been graded quite high when I was a little girl(I’m 45 now) I wonder if this might be true for others as well?’. It served as a surrvival tactic for me just as it did for the rest of my family(my mom especially). Now all those complaints and pains have caught up with me and my threshold for pain is incredibly low, resulting in always being in pain and discomfort 24/7.
    My conclusion is that I identified with being so damned patient and seemingly calm because I got love and affection for it. You can imagine why that might be hard to give up. So, Lisa,taking your suggestion of “releasing”the fibromyalgia and your”body work” you so eloquently relayed and communicated: I’m sitting with my bitchy, irritating and irritated body as a good friend, listening to it 24/seven, reminding it to correct its posture, stretch every 20 or so minutes, practice massage of the tender points, making sure I go to the gym and get exercise everyday, eating really well, constantly telling myself”you’re gonna be all right .”It’s helping me tremendously and helping me realize how it truly is mostly a state of mind; the body is just manifesting that fact in 3D.
    To exstrapolate a bit further on the sentsitivity issue, I’ve discovered that my poor boundaries and porous soul manifested itself in my intenstines becoming, you guessed it, porous: letting all kinds of toxins into my body. So now to help myself, I’m imagining working on my boundaries , physically and mentally trying to turn my need for protection into a vital self protection. I have, however only been doing this now for a few days, so we shall see what happens.
    My advice to people is try to reduce the stress that’s within your power to do so, and imagine the unavoidable stress flowing from and away from your body. I find this a neccessary habit and kind of meditation. If someone is upsetting you, look for that calm inside of yourself and then imagine it flowing away from you, flowing out of every cell and bit of you and away. I think sufferers such as ourselves have been designated toxic waste sites for others and we don’t have to be. Maybe imagining the stress flowing away from those who are stressing you will help, too; much like giving a massage to someone else helps the giver release stress as well.
    Thanks again, Lisa

    • what a great comment! Good for you, having realized your issues and made some commitments! I am certain you are going to find a lot of relief :) and you are welcome! Lisa

  7. I realize people are asking you for help, Lisa, but if I may, I have a suggestion for T.Nelson.
    If you aren’t doing it already, I would delegate responsibilities to people in your family. Obviously not too many, and you’ll probably have a lot of hemming and hawing coming from them, but eventually it’ll become a habit. I think part of my problem has been to take on too much therebye freeing others of stress(at least I imagined I freed others of it), and fact is “many hands make lighter work.” When everyone participates and feels needed because of fulffilling their responsibilities, they feel their value and worth. It would mean more work for you at first, because of having to compliment them constantly in order to encourage them, but eventually they would get the hang of it and see how they are helping you and can feel proud. Everyone has the need to feel he’s/she’s helping mom.(!)With your husband it’ll have to be some sort of “being good to his wife” psychological tactic(!)
    Thank you again for your abundant suggestions and wisdom, Lisa. Messaging those tender points is a true revelation, to think I only learned about them five days ago *smile*

  8. Thank you for this article. I’ve just discovered that I’m an hsp and what this means. So many things make sense now, but this knowledge also adds depth to the severe harm that’s been done in my life and many like me.

    My mom too is hsp, never diagnosed, but it’s now so obvious. She always just learned to manage whatever new physical malady came her way, due to fibormylagia. She made and wore arm socks, had to stop wearing closed toed shoes, allergies to everything. She knew she was sensitive to other people, but was ridiculed for this by everyone. She also raised me to blindly submit to all authority, and to be grateful if any man took a liking to me. As a consequence of these and many other things (hsp’s when raised in non-nurturing environments can end up with no confidence) I married a man just like my father, and I’d like to point out that this type of person is very common and some of the above posters seem to be in relationships with this type of person.

    It took me decades to realize what my husband, father, and several children are, and don’t be put off by the name. Don’t think they are killers or even criminals in the legal sense, as they aren’t. But I’ve come to discover that this genetic trait prevents their brains from processing certain emotions such as love, gratefulness, shame, guilt or empathy. They are the absolute opposite of what I am but I was never told that these people existed, or what they really looked like. They may appear calm and nurturing. Although calm can be what they are on the outside, inside they are full of hatred and greed.

    The term is psychopath. There’s a book titled, “Women Who love Psychopahs,” by Sandra L. Brown. Once you start looking down this avenue you will see the utter horror of this ailment and the devastation it leaves in its wake. What you will also see is that nobody will believe you and for an hsp, to be so uber aware, and to be so utterly lied to, lied about, and abused, well, I just don’t understand why so few people know about it and why there is no help. Another great article is on a website “Aftermath :The aftermath of psychopathy as experienced by: romantic partners, family members and other victims.” This article can explain many things.

    You are very brave to have made your decisions and stuck to your values. I’m very proud of you and I pray that I will be able to get to where you are at some day. But for now, I am still entagled in my marraige and I will forever have children who will never love others and only wish to manipulate them. I was never given the information about psychopathy, but I don’t know of any who are. It is usually after complete and utter devastation and nobody helping you, that you figure out what it is. I pray this helps anyone who may be in this position. I’m so sorry.

    • Hi Renee, I can hear the desperation in your words … I am so sorry. … I think that many of your words could be softened, and maybe that could help you reframe some of these things in your life. Forever, never, always … these are hard words. … That is one of the dangers of being HSP – everything seems so black and white and immediate to us. When in reality things are more of a continuum, a blending, a sometimes but not always … A sometimes more, sometimes less.

      And I personally don’t think being HSP should be something that is diagnosed and medicalized. It’s just a different way of being. Not everyone should be or is the same :)

      The good news is that you are an adult now, and you can make changes and you can protect yourself :) That’s what I’ve spent the last 10 years figuring out how to do. I live in a little cocoony bubble now :) and it helps a lot. i wish you a lot of luck and relief! Lisa

  9. I knew there was a connection! I was diagnosed in 2010 and my symptoms are pretty severe. I am a very sensitive, highly emotional, super-charged type person. I’m prone to anxiety and have a history of panic attacks. My Mother was a very sensitive person and I wonder if my sensitivity came from heredity and possibly the side effects of caffeine and tobacco?? Back in those days Moms didn’t quit smoking (Mom smoked 4 pks a day) when they were pregnant and caffeine (she loved her coffee and soft drinks) wasn’t taboo like it is today. I wonder if there’s been a study about this?? I have yet to read your book so forgive me if this is covered. I know extreme stress can worsen symptoms and it’s very likely the reason my symptoms are so severe. We’ve lost 5 family members in the past 4 yrs – 3 were Children! During this time I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, Skin Cancer and my Boyfriend had a Heart Attack! I can’t tell you how STRESSED I’ve been. I came close to closing my job because I missed so much work and my home is in foreclosure as a result of all the financial problems. I’ve read that Fibro is similar to, or caused by, PTSD. That also makes sense because I’ve been under an insane amount of pressure trying to work full time as I go through some of the most difficult LIFE HAPPENINGS one can imagine. **I plan to read everything you wrote and thank you for taking the time to help us figure this out. I hope to get some much needed relief**

    • I ca’t even imagine the stress you are under. … Yes, I could have had PTSD. I think that’s totally true. It’s a dopamine thing. Dopamine keeps our pain levels down, but those of us in a lot of stress use up every bit of our dopamine and then everything hurts so bad.

      • YES. Agreed. I am certain I’ve depleted my dopamine. source! I’ve also gained a lot of weight though I don’t eat much. I’m guessing that’s cortisol (sp)? At least that’s what I’ve read. (Thanks for reply, I don’t normally post anything on these sites). Have a nice Easter…

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