Panic Disorder in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Recognizing, Treating, and Living with Panic Disorder

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People with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) often experience anxiety symptoms and panic attacks.

Panic disorder can be debilitating and have a major impact on your life. It can make you afraid of every-day situations like going to work; strain your relationships; and cause you to avoid things that might trigger symptoms. When you add this to FMS and ME/CFS, which are debilitating on their own, the problems can compound each other.

Sometimes, symptoms are mild and don't require treatment -- you just learn to deal with them. Other times, though, when more severe, they may be an overlapping condition such as panic disorder. If that's the case you with, you'll need proper diagnosis and treatment in order to stop being held captive by anxiety.

Even if your panic and anxiety symptoms doesn't meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis, certain treatments and coping strategies may be beneficial to you. Therefore, it is important to discuss these symptoms with your doctor and make some lifestyle changes.

Verywell's Expert on Panic Disorders, Katharina Star is a licensed professional counselor who's trained in several complementary treatments. She also has personal experience with panic disorder and the problems it can cause in your life.

Below, I've compiled a selection of her articles that I think will be most helpful to people with FMS and ME/CFS.

The Basics of Panic Disorders

First, it's important to get an understanding of what a panic disorder is, how panic attacks differ from anxiety attacks and other basic information about panic disorder.

That should give you an idea of whether you need to talk to your doctor and seek a diagnosis.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder

The primary symptoms of panic disorder are quite different from those of FMS and ME/CFS, so the conditions are generally easy to tell apart. Panic disorder can cause multiple physiological symptoms along with psychological ones.

The conditions do have some similar symptoms, however, including gastrointestinal problems. Also, some doctors say many of their patients with FMS and ME/CFS show signs of cognitive distortion and irrational beliefs. Learning about these symptoms may help you deal with multiple conditions.

Treating Panic Disorder

Most of the treatments for panic disorder are also utilized in FMS and ME/CFS, so they may do double duty for you. When deciding on treatments, be sure your doctor is aware of all your diagnoses so he/she can choose the best options for you.

Also see:

Self Management

You can do a lot on your own to manage the symptoms of panic disorder. The information and strategies below can guide you toward healthy ways to prevent panic attacks and how to get through them when they strike.

Panic Disorder and the People in Your Life

Coping with any illness is difficult, and it can be worse when it's mental illness. These articles on relationships and helping other people understand your condition may help you and the people in your life come to terms with your disorder.

More Resources

These resources are just the tip of the iceberg. Katharina offers a wealth of information on all aspects of panic disorder. To keep learning, you can:

For more information on the neurotransmitters involved in FMS, ME/CFS and panic disorder, see my articles:

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  1. Galvez-Sánchez CM, Duschek S, Reyes Del Paso GA. Psychological impact of fibromyalgia: current perspectivesPsychol Res Behav Manag. 2019;12:117-127. doi:10.2147/PRBM.S178240

  2. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington D.C.: 2013.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. 2016.

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