Hypervigilance

There is a generalized hypervigilance hypothesis, or GHH for short, that says that “hypervigilance leads to…perceptual amplification” (see Hollins & Walters in library).  This hypothesis was NOT originally put forward for people with fibromyalgia, but it is something fibro patients need to take into account.

Essentially, the more you focus on your physical self, the more you’ll feel.  Hollins & Walters did an interesting experiment where patients focused on themselves by counting their own breaths, heartbeats, and even blinks.  Afterwards, they did a pressure sensitivity test.  The control group, who had counted lights and sounds which really focused their senses away from their bodies, found the intensity and “unpleasantness” of the pressure test significantly less than the experimental group.  The two groups were assessed for anxiety and catastrophizing (my current favorite word) before the test and were equal.

This makes perfect sense to me.  One of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is to forget about it.  There are times it’s impossible to forget about it, but the further back you can push the pain in your head, the less it hurts.  It doesn’t mean when you do feel pain that it’s all in your head, but the intensity can be reduced by ignoring it.  Looking at the experiment, both groups felt the same pressure, the pressure was there – that is undeniable, but their perception of the pressure was different.  I think one of the management strategies for fibromyalgia is to reduce intensity by reducing hypervigilance.  Not that everyone with fibromyalgia is hypervigilant, but it’s like when you were sitting in the backseat of the car with your brother on a long roadtrip vacation, and he waves his hands in front of your face just millimeters from your eyes and nose and mouth, but he’s not touching you!  Your mind reacts to that stimulus that your body doesn’t feel.  When your body actually does feel something your mind can take it that one (or two or 200) steps farther.

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