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“Mitochondria, Not Hypochondria” – By Prof. Rhona Johnston

  [ 25 votes ]   [ 4 Comments ] • February 9, 2011

University of Hull Professor of Psychology Rhona Johnston argues against the widespread belief that ME/chronic fatigue syndrome is a psychological condition – a misconception that’s “good for creating work for psychiatrists” but not good for people with this horrible illness who are blamed for it simply because it is not understood.

In a statement published Jan 6 by the UK’s Public Service Review ( - Mitochondria, Not Hypochondria - Dr. Johnston makes a strong argument that if cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) benefits some ME/CFS patients it is owing to the psychic impact of a serious chronic illness, and that ME/CFS patients are no more likely to suffer depression than those with other illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis – that is, ME/CFS is not properly explained as a ‘functional somatic syndrome’.

She dismantles other rationales for suggesting ME/CFS is psychological, reviews evidence for why it is a physical disorder, and suggests a better focus for National Health Service resources allocated to ME/CFS.

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Article Comments Post a Comment

"Mitpchodrria, Not Hypochondria" Article
Posted by: zebragirl
Feb 9, 2011
Just another doctor that thinks "it's all in your head". No, It's all in the severe headaches, dizziness and horrible muscular pain associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Reply Reply

Read again
Posted by: IanH
Feb 9, 2011
Actually Zebragirl this Psychologist, like myself, (and I am a psychologist too) believe the weight of evidence, that ME/CFS is an immunological dysfunction affecting cell function, particularly the function of mitochondria which is our best explanation of the energy problems experienced by ME/CFSers.

I think the author has not presented the full range of data that explains the symptoms of ME/CFS but hey if she tried many would be confused. This article is a welcome statement.


She argues against the belief that it is a psychological condition
Posted by: m2gym
Feb 9, 2011
Professor Johnston says: "In order to help at least some people recover, it would seem a good use of resources for the NHS to screen ME/CFS patients for low mitochondrial function, adrenal problems (not just testing cortisol levels at midday) and mycoplasma infections."


Posted by: neoplus1
Feb 10, 2011
No this psychologist is actually saying it is NOT in our head and is criticizing fellow psychologists and psychiatrists for trying to make the illness seem like it is a psychological somatic illness.
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