New psychological therapy – EAET – offers hope to people with fibromyalgia
Addressing emotional experiences related to trauma, conflict and relationship problems may help people with fibromyalgia, says research in PAIN.
A total of 230 people with fibromyalgia received one of three treatments for eight weeks: an educational intervention, cognitive behavioural therapy or Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET).
EAET is designed to help people view their pain and other symptoms as stemming from changeable neural pathways in the brain that are strongly influenced by emotions. It helpe people process emotional experiences by talking about struggles, learning how to express feelings (such as anger, sadness, gratitude, compassion, and forgiveness) and empowering people to be more direct in relationships that have been problematic.
Six months after the treatments ended the volunteers were evaluated for the severity and extent of their pain and other symptoms.
- People who received EAET had reduced widespread pain, physical impairment, attention and concentration problems, anxiety, and depression and more positive emotions and life satisfaction than those who received the education intervention.
- Almost 35% of people in the EAET group reported that they were “much better” or “very much better” than before treatment, compared to 15% of education patients.
- Those in the EAET group had greater benefits than cognitive behavior therapy in reducing widespread pain and in the number of people who achieved at least 50% pain reduction.
“Many people with fibromyalgia have experienced adversity in their lives, including victimization, family problems and internal conflicts, all of which create important emotions that are often suppressed or avoided,” says Prof Mark Lumley, who led the work. “Emerging neuroscience research suggests that this can contribute strongly to pain and other physical symptoms. We developed and tested an approach that tries to help people overcome these emotional and relationship problems and reduce their symptoms, rather than just help people manage or accept their fibromyalgia. Although this treatment does not help all people with fibromyalgia, many patients found it to be very helpful, and some had dramatic improvements in their lives and their health.”
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