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Screening for psychiatric disorders in chronic fatigue & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

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By Buchwald D, Pearlman T, Kith P, Katon W, Schmaling K • www.ProHealth.com • January 10, 1997


Psychiatric disorders are common in chronic fatigue (CF) and chronic
fatigue syndrome (CFS). To determine the usefulness of the
General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), a self-report measure of
psychological distress, in identifying those with psychiatric
illnesses, a structured psychiatric interview and the GHQ
were administered to 120 CF and 161 CFS patients seen in a
referral clinic. Overall, 87 (35%) patients had a current and
210 (82%) a lifetime psychiatric disorder. Compared to
patients without psychiatric disorders, GHQ scores above the
threshold (> or = 12) were more frequent among patients with
current (p < 0.001) and lifetime (p < 0.05) diagnoses; scores
among patients with CF and CFS were similar. Longer illness
duration, greater fatigue severity, and current psychiatric
disorders were significant predictors of the GHQ score. In CF
and CFS, the best sensitivity (0.69-0.76) and specificity
(0.51-0.62) were achieved for current psychiatric diagnoses
using a threshold score of > or = 12. Thus, patients scoring
< 12 on the GHQ are significantly less likely to have a
psychiatric disorder.




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