Some medical experts claim that there is a strong connection between fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. In fact, one in every five fibromyalgia patients is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, according to a recent 2015 study published in Journal of Affective Disorder. This is not surprising since there are similarities between the fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder. As a matter of fact, the two conditions are sometimes misdiagnosed as the other.
The link between fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder starts with the frequency of both disorders occurring together. According to the meta-analysis study, fibromyalgia patients have a 7.5 times higher chance of having bipolar disorder than those without fibromyalgia. The aforementioned study is the first to suggest the prevalence of bipolar disorder in fibromyalgia and express concerns with the frequent use of antidepressants in fibromyalgia treatment.
However, there is no conclusive evidence to provide a reason for the high number of people who are suffering from both conditions simultaneously. Furthermore, it is difficult to conclude whether fibromyalgia makes a person more susceptible to bipolar disorder or vice versa.
Fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder have similar common symptoms that can make misdiagnosis seem possible. Both disorders trigger sleep disturbances as well as mood swings. Restlessness and irritability associated with fibromyalgia can be mistaken as hypomania. Moreover, bipolar patients can also suffer from frequent muscle pain, which is usually psychosomatic and a result of stress. This symptom can be mistaken for the pain associated with fibromyalgia. Fibro patients can also suffer from chronic depression that is similar to those experienced by bipolar disorder patients.
Lack of Definitive Diagnosis
Unfortunately, there has been no definitive test to diagnose bipolar disorder. Moreover, the diagnostic test for fibromyalgia is still in the early stages. It is now believed that fibromyalgia happens due to improper flow of blood in the brain. A special imaging can test for this but only in certain cases. Moreover, up till date, some doctors or psychiatrist still rely on diagnosis of exclusion to rule out any potential causes of the patient’s symptoms, in both fibromyalgia and bipolar cases. Therefore, there is a likelihood that cases where both conditions co-exist are overlooked.
Medical experts caution clinicians to be cautious when prescribing antidepressants for their fibromyalgia patients due to the possible prevalence of bipolar disorder. This is because, if the fibro patient has undiagnosed bipolar disorder, antidepressants can trigger mania when consumed without a mood stabilizer. Hence, it is also important for fibromyalgia patients to screen for any bipolar disorder symptoms. The process is as simple as doing a Mood Disorder Questionnaire. It contains questions to check for risk of developing bipolar disorder.