Beneficial Therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A recent review of the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a therapeutic measure for treating the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) found that CBT is of definite benefit to those who suffer from CFS.

Quality of Life?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a disease of long duration that has a disastrous effect on the ability to maintain gainful employment, parent children, and sustain relationships, since sufferers maintain an extended state of exhaustion in which they can find it hard to move from their beds. The least little activity may trigger a strong reaction which may take weeks or months to dissipate. Quality of life for sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome is very poor, to say the least.

Negative Thoughts

Some researchers have estimated that as many as one in one hundred people are affected by the syndrome throughout the world. No one in the medical community has an adequate explanation for the disease and therefore, a perfect therapy has yet to be offered to sufferers. CBT employs psychological techniques to change negative thought patterns that hamper recovery by offering positive and realistic thoughts for the sufferer to adopt. When CBT is used to treat patients with CFS, this therapy is combined with a slow increase in the level of activity the patient is able to sustain.

Cochrane Researchers in the UK did a systematic analysis of data accumulated through 15 studies on chronic fatigue syndrome which involved a total of 1043 patients with the syndrome. The effects of various care regimens and psychological therapies used to treat CFS were compared to those of cognitive behavioral therapy with the discovery that CBT beats all the other treatments hands down, so long as patients continue the treatment for the duration of their symptoms.

More work remains to be done to compare the results of CBT with other untested forms of treatment such as relaxation techniques or exercise. The researchers suggest that it might be best to offer CBT as a part of a combined treatment approach, rather than on its own, to maximize its benefits.

"CFS is a challenging illness for patients, and there is ongoing controversy about its causes. There remain unanswered questions, but the available evidence is clear -- CBT can help many people with CFS", says lead researcher Jonathan Price, who works at the University of Oxford in the UK.

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