Psychotherapy May Help Teens with Fibromyalgia

psychotherapist with patient
Teens with fibromyalgia who received cognitive-behavioral therapy reported a reduction in pain levels and a 37 percent improvement in disability, according to the study. (Image credit: Dreamstime)

Teens with juvenile fibromyalgia experience less depression and disability when they undergo talk therapy, a new study shows.

People with fibromyalgia experience fatigue and chronic, widespread pain in their muscles and joints, and the condition can lead to disabilities in terms of physical, school, social and emotional impairments.

Teens with fibromyalgia who underwent cognitive behavioral therapy saw a 37 percent improvement in their disabilities, while those in a control group, who took a class on the condition, reported a 12 percent improvement, according to the researchers.

Both groups reported a slight reduction in their pain, although the decrease was not clinically significant, according to the researchers.

"When added to standard medical care, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps to improve daily functioning and overall wellbeing for adolescents with fibromyalgia," study researcher Susmita Kashikar-Zuck, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a statement.

Fibromyalgia affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population, and is seven times more common in women than men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms include sleep and mood disturbances, tension headaches, morning stiffness and irritable bowel syndrome.

Researchers at the hospital set out to determine whether cognitive-behavioral therapy, a psychological intervention that involves addressing and correcting negative thinking patterns , could improve fibromyalgia symptoms in teens.

The study included 114 adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 at four pediatric rheumatology centers from 2005 through 2009. Half of the participants received eight weekly one-on-one talk therapy sessions, and then two additional sessions over the next six months. The other group received an equal number of fibromyalgia education classes.

The study was published online today (Nov. 22) in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Pass it on: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can reduce disability and depression symptoms in teens with fibromyalgia, a new study shows.

Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.