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Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Found to be Effective in Treatment of Chronic Fatigue

Posted Oct 03 2008 12:51pm

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is an issue I know little about. For those who are interested, though this research may be of interest. It appears the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 15 different studies that examined the effectiveness of therapy in the treatment of this condition, and the meta-analysis concluded that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) does, in fact, work. Specifically, the treatment is effective in reducing the severity of symptoms, assuming the patient persists with treatment long enough to be effective. Here is a description of both the illness and the treatment from the article:

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a potentially long-lasting illness that can cause considerable distress and disability. Some estimates suggest it may affect as many as 1 in 100 of the population globally. There is no widely accepted explanation for the disease and patients are currently offered a variety of different treatments. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) uses psychological techniques to balance negative thoughts that may impair recovery with more realistic alternatives. In treating CFS, these techniques are combined with a gradual increase in activity levels.

Again, I am not an expert on the condition, but it would seem to me logical that CBT would be effective, insofar as how one approaches many issues that depend on one’s cognitons, regardless of the physiology of the condition, is important in the effort to treat it. As an example, I always use chronic pain. People with chronic pain are often initially wary of any effort to engage in therapy as part of their treatment, as they perceive it as a suggestion that “their pain isn’t real.” A therapist must address this, and explain how pain can be reduced, regardless of etiology, depending on one’s cognitions and other mental skills/functioning. I will often point out how athletes will use cognitive techniques to push through pain, which subtly indicates to the client that we are talking about any kind of pain. Once on board, treatment will also focus on other lifestyle factors that will increase a sense of efficacy, and also positively impact the experience of pain. I’d imagine the same holds true for the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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