“I have a strong sense that fibromyalgia may well be based on extremely early and probably preverbal trauma that often is difficult to document in a patient’s clinical history”, Robert Scaer
As I noted in my book and on several blogs, childhood trauma seems to have resulted in the development of an overly sensitive, highly empathetic adult prone to hyper vigilance and lack of resiliency to life’s many challenges. A highly sensitive person (HSP) with an over aroused nervous system is how I define fibromyalgia…in my view it is both a definition and the cause. The work of Dr. Peter Levine whom I have quoted elsewhere and Dr. Robert Scaer have reinforced my belief about the cause of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. (Like Dr. Scaer I link the two syndromes together.) I do not believe that either of these syndromes developed after a single event, but rather a series of either minor or major traumas which have accumulated over the years. Hence the preponderance of cases reported in middle aged women. This is not to negate the fact that children and men too may have a predisposition to fibromyalgia as highly sensitive persons who have experienced many ‘hidden wounds’ (Scaer).
I would take this step even further and suggest that this dis-ease occurs more severely among those who are disenfranchised in society such as women, the poor, mentally or physically challenged, gays and lesbians, people of colour. While abuse and other forms of trauma or personal crises can occur in any home situation no matter what the socio-cultural status, it is likely that if a person is also marginalized in some way there is a double jeopardy. But it is not fair to make comparisons among groups as it is difficult to know if, like Scaer suggests, trauma may occur at a preverbal stage of life. Could it be having an episode as a baby/infant, such as a fall, for example, requiring hospitalization bring about the highly sensitive nervous system of the adult? Scaer suggests that it is the accumulation of life’s little events that can shape our lives and not one single event. There are many scenarios that one could imagine which could bring about hypervigilance and an overly sensitive nervous system. Thinking to such extreme cases of war, sexual or physical abuse to the less dramatic crises in a child’s life and attempting to compare the level of damage is a useless endeavour. Answers are not clear cut and it is little wonder that the old nature/nurture does not really matter. Who can tell, for example, if as a fetus one was subject to extreme conditions of a highly sensitive mother that later were passed on to the child? Furthermore, how was that child raised if the mother herself was highly sensitive? To try to find the root cause of the personality of the hyper vigilant person with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue is not possible in many cases.
If there is one book I would highly recommend for an understanding of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue it is this book. It would be unfair of me to cite more than I already have as the book should be read in its entirety. I disagree with his use of the term disease and would rather he used the term dis-ease, but that is a minor point. Scaer’s conclusion and epilogue are both hopeful and certainly worthy of our consideration even though they are not directly related to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I conclude with this quote from his book:
“I believe that the weakness and collapse that is seen in fibromyalgia and other posttraumatic states relates to the parasympathetic immobility of the freeze response”, (p.218).
For more on the freeze response see my earlier blogs in 2009, and in particular April 12, 2009 : “Is Fibromyalgia a Psychosomatic Disorder?” as well as several others that address the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
P.S. Please dear readers read the comments of Marilyn Trubey in the blog “Fibromyalgia and goodism…” 2009/05/09 . Amazing what can be done for the brain and wish we all had access to this kind of treatment!