J Psychosom Res 2002 Dec;53(6):1097-1106
Taillefer SS, Kirmayer LJ, Robbins JM, Lasry JC.
Department of Psychology, Universite de Montreal, Canada
The present study was designed to test a cognitive model of impairment in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in which disability is a function of severity of fatigue and depressive symptoms, generalized somatic symptom attributions and generalized illness worry.
We compared 45 CFS and 40 multiple sclerosis (MS) outpatients on measures of functional ability, fatigue severity, depressive symptoms, somatic symptom attribution and illness worry.
The results confirmed previous findings of lower levels of functional status and greater fatigue among CFS patients compared to a group of patients with MS. Fatigue severity was found to be a significant predictor of physical functioning but not of psychosocial functioning in both groups. In CFS, when level of fatigue was controlled, making more somatic attributions was associated with worse physical functioning, and both illness worry and depressive symptoms were associated with worse psychosocial functioning.
Our findings support the role of depression and illness cognitions in disability in CFS sufferers. Different cognitive factors account for physical and psychosocial disability in CFS and MS. The SF-36 may be sensitive to symptom attributions, suggesting caution in its interpretation when used with patients with ill-defined medical conditions.