Recovery of Repressed Memories in Fibromyalgia Patients Treated With Hyperbaric Oxygen – Case Series Presentation and Suggested Bio-Psycho-Social Mechanism

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a condition considered to represent a prototype of central sensitization syndrome, characterized by chronic widespread pain and along with symptoms of fatigue, non-restorative sleep and cognitive difficulties. FMS can be induced by trauma, infection or emotional stress with cumulative evidence that dissociation is relatively frequent in FMS patients. Two randomized controlled trials have shown that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can induce neuroplasticity and be effective in patients suffering from FMS. In this paper we present, for the first time, case series of female fibromyalgia patients who, in the course of HBOT, suddenly recalled repressed traumatic memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The surfacing of the repressed (dissociative) memories decades after the sexual abuse events was sudden and utterly surprising. No psychological intervention was involved. As the memories surfaced, the physical pain related to FMS subsided. In one patient who had brain single photon emission CT (SPECT) before and after HBOT, the prefrontal cortex appeared suppressed before and reactivated after. The 3 cases reported in this article are representative of a total of nine fibromyalgia patients who experienced a retrieval of repressed memory during HBOT. These cases provide insights on dissociative amnesia and suggested mechanism hypothesis that is further discussed in the article. Obviously, prospective studies cannot be planned since patients are not aware of their repressed memories. However, it is very important to keep in mind the possibility of surfacing memories when treating fibromyalgia patients with HBOT or other interventions capable of awakening dormant brain regions.

Categories: Medical clinic, Psychiatry, Rheumatology