Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Psychiatric Patients: Lifetime and Premorbid Personal History of Physical Health

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Abstract

Objective

This preliminary report compares a group of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) patients and controls on several variables of potential significance in the etiology of CFS.

Method

The lifetime prevalence of reported physical disorders was compared among 46 CFS psychiatric patients, 92 relatively physically healthy psychiatric patients (C-I), and 46 psychiatric patients selected without regard to physical health (C-II). All patients were matched on age, sex, and psychiatric diagnosis and were drawn from the same psychiatric practice. The same groups were compared on a 7-point scale of lifetime physical health by three raters independently evaluating physical health narratives of the CFS patients up to the time of onset of CFS and that of the controls up to the corresponding age.

Results

The CFS patients had a significantly higher reported lifetime prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), infectious mononucleosis-like syndromes (IM), infectious mononucleosis-like syndromes two or more times (IM x 2), and herpes (other than genital or perioral herpes) than one or both control groups. The CFS group also had a higher incidence of allergic rhinitis or asthma, IBS, IM, and IM x 2 than the combined controls. On the independent ratings, the CFS patients had significantly more impaired physical health up to the time of onset of the CFS than C-I at a comparable age.

Conclusions

The findings suggest that a general health factor may be involved in the pathogenesis of some cases of CFS.

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