Purpose. To describe trends in the personal social network characteristics of the fibromyalgia patients compared with the network of patients with another chronic disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods. A structured interview was applied to 10 fibromyalgia patients and 10 matched RA patients.
Results. The networks of the 10 fibromyalgia and 10 RA patients were comparable in most respects, namely: the small number of intimate friends, the reliance for support on the spouse and the physician, and the relative lack of new social contacts. Furthermore, the fibromyalgia networks were closed networks within a small geographic area. These networks lacked initiative to establish and maintain relations, and can hardly fulfill the patients' psychosocial needs.
Conclusion. Based on small numbers, the study provides some evidence that social networks of patients with fibromyalgia are more restricted than those of RA patients. Further studies should include larger numbers of patients to clarify cause and effect relationships and to suggest new directions in the treatment of chronic disorders such as fibromyalgia.