ADHD News & Research

Fibromyalgia Patients Should Be Screened for ADHD, Study Says

A recent study concludes that fibromyalgia and ADHD may frequently co-occur — possibly resulting in increased symptom severity for one or both conditions.

December 15, 2017

A small observational study found high rates of comorbidity between ADHD and fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder, as well as some evidence that patients with both conditions experience heightened symptom severity. Though the study’s data is preliminary, its authors concluded that patients with fibromyalgia should receive pre-emptive ADHD screenings.

The study1 was published in November in the journal Pain Medicine. Researchers tested 123 patients — all whom had been previously diagnosed with fibromyalgia — for ADHD, using the World Health Organization Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale. Fibromyalgia severity was also measured, using a widely recognized symptom scale called the Revised Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ-R).

Nearly half of the patients — 44.7 percent — tested positive for ADHD. Those with ADHD were more likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression, and higher FIQ-R scores. In fact, subjects in this group were particularly impacted by a fibromyalgia symptom called dyscognition, the researchers said.

Fibromyalgia’s most common (and well known) symptoms include muscle pain and fatigue. The condition, however, also includes a range of symptoms affecting memory, attention, and concentration, known collectively as dyscognition. Dyscognition may be “more disabling than chronic pain,” the study’s authors write, but is mostly under-recognized or under-treated. They concluded that the higher FIQ-R scores “could possibly be attributed to both the impact of dyscognition and the higher frequencies of anxiety and/or depression in patients with unrecognized adult ADHD.”

The study’s size means its conclusions should be verified; it’s unclear if symptoms of dyscognition and ADHD could overlap or be mistaken for one another. Still, the authors recommend that all fibromyalgia patients be screened for ADHD, as proper treatment could help manage more difficult memory- and cognition-related symptoms.

1 Van Rensburg, Roland, et al. “Screening for Adult ADHD in Patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome.” Pain Medicine, Jan. 2017, doi:10.1093/pm/pnx275.