Psychiatric Comorbidity in Persons With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Identified From the Georgia Population

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Abstract

Objective:

To compare the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in persons with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) identified from the general population and a chronically ill group of people presenting with subsyndromic CFS-like illness (“insufficient symptoms or fatigue” (ISF)). Previous studies in CFS patients from primary and tertiary care clinics have found high rates of psychiatric disturbance, but this may reflect referral bias rather than true patterns of comorbidity with CFS.

Methods:

We used random digit dialing to identify unwell individuals. A detailed telephone interview identified those with CFS-like illness. These individuals participated in a 1-day clinical evaluation to confirm CFS or ISF status. We identified 113 cases of CFS and 264 persons with ISF. To identify current and lifetime psychiatric disorders, participants completed the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.

Results:

Sixty-four persons (57%) with CFS had at least one current psychiatric diagnosis, in contrast to 118 persons (45%) with ISF. One hundred one persons (89%) with CFS had at least one lifetime psychiatric diagnosis compared with 208 persons (79%) with ISF. Of note, only 11 persons (9.8%) with CFS and 25 persons (9.5%) with ISF reported having seen a mental healthcare specialist during the past 6 months.

Conclusions:

Our findings indicate that current and lifetime psychiatric disorders commonly accompany CFS in the general population. Most CFS cases with comorbid psychiatric conditions had not sought appropriate help during the past 6 months. These results demonstrate an urgent need to address psychiatric disorders in the clinical care of CFS cases.

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