Personality & Physiology in Fibromyalgia: A New Discovery

Research Brief

Fibromyalgia has long been tied to certain personality traits, both by the medical community and by some in the patient community. However, this observation has always been controversial, with many objecting that such stereotyping was erroneous and blamed non-physiological traits for a physiological illness.

Now, new research may resolve the controversy by tying both fibromyalgia AND a personality trait to a physiological root.

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center studied 3,176 neurology patients, looking at information from a genetic analysis, psychological work up, medical history and physical examinations. They found that a particular genetic expression, called alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT) polymorphism, was associated with a personality trait called “intense creative energy” (ICE) and also with fibromyalgia and multiple other illnesses.

The fibromyalgia stereotype is generally about a Type A personality, which refers to someone who’s highly driven, a perfectionist and intense. While that’s not exactly synonymous with ICE, logically it does seem that we’d see a large overlap between the two.

Rather than saying the personality type is a cause of the illness, this research suggests a common physiological underpinning of both the personality type and the illness.

Other illnesses had previously been linked to A1AT polymorphism, including some lung and liver vulnerabilities. More illnesses were linked to it in this study, including Parkinson’s diseaseanxiety disordersbipolar spectrum disorders, inflammatory muscle disease, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis,post-traumatic stress disorderattention deficit disorder and primary progressive aphasia. The polymorphism was not linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This link indicates a greater risk of developing an associated illness but does not mean all people with the polymorphism will develop it. Toxic exposure appeared to increase the risk of developing several of the associated conditions.

It’s important to note that while some of the conditions linked to A1AT are classified as mental-health or behavioral illnesses, they all deal with physical neurological abnormalities.

Would you classify yourself as someone with (or formerly with) intense creative energy? Do you have other illnesses linked to the polymorphism, or do you see evidence of them in your family? Leave your comments below!

By , About.com Guide   March 19, 2012

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