Session Title: Clinical Practice/Patient Care
Session Type: Abstract Submissions (ARHP)
Background/Purpose: The Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) can place a strain on patients’ personal relationships. Having a close support network is helpful in coping with illnesses, but chronic pain, fatigue, and other invisible symptoms associated with FMS can damage connections with family, friends, and co-workers. In this study, we asked FMS patients about the nature of their ties to their families, friends, and co-workers.
Methods: As a part of an Internet survey administered by the volunteer community fibromyalgia organization, AFFTER (Advocates for Fibromyalgia Funding, Treatment, Education and Research), 763 female respondents with self-described FMS responded to questions on how FMS has affected their relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. Only women’s responses were analyzed to eliminate confounding by gender. The McNemar test was done to compare percentages, using a 0.05 significance level.
Results: The mean FMS respondent age was 50.2 ± 10.8 years. Only 12.5% of the FMS group reported that co-workers were supportive, and only 18.1% reported that in-laws were supportive. Support was better among other groups: spouses/significant others (59.1%), children (41.8%), close friends (44.8%), and parents (38.0%) (p < 0.001). Only 9.0% of FMS patients reported that co-workers understood their limitations, and just 12.6% of patients responded that their in-laws understood the limitations imposed by the illness, compared to higher percentages in spouses/significant others (52.0%), children (36.9%), and close friends (35.1%), Only 29.7% of parents (p < 0.001) had an understanding of the limitations imposed by fibromyalgia. FMS patients reported that they sometimes had seriously damaged relationships with spouses/significant others (14.6%) and close friends (11.6%).
Conclusion: Except for spousal understanding (59.1%), patients perceived that less than 50% of other groups were supportive. While some FMS patients viewed spouses/significant others and close friends as strong sources of support, others reported a significant strain on those relationships. Very frequently, FMS patients reported that co-workers, in-laws, and parents were not sympathetic or kind.
These results indicate that the perceived strain on relationships as a result of having FMS can be severe, especially among coworkers, in-laws, and parents of patients. The strain on relationships could partially be due to the fact that the symptoms of FMS are invisible and therefore are often underestimated among friends and relatives of FMS patients. Better education of the public about FMS and counseling for patients may help in repairing some of these broken relationships.
R. S. Katz,
S. M. Ferbert,
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ACR Meeting Abstracts - https://acrabstracts.org/abstract/fibromyalgias-impact-on-relationships/