“Abnormal” illness behaviour in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) & multiple sclerosis

OBJECTIVE–To investigate the presence of abnormal illness behaviour
in patients with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome.

DESIGN–A cross sectional descriptive study using the illness
behaviour questionnaire to compare illness behaviour scores
and illness behaviour profiles of patients with chronic
fatigue syndrome and patients with multiple sclerosis.

SETTING–A multidisciplinary fatigue clinic and a teaching
hospital neurology outpatient clinic. SUBJECTS–98 patients
satisfying the Oxford criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome
and 78 patients with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. MAIN

OUTCOME MEASURE–Responses to the 62 item illness behaviour

RESULTS–90 (92%) patients in the chronic
fatigue syndrome group and 70 (90%) in the multiple sclerosis
group completed the illness behaviour questionnaire. Both
groups had significantly high scores on the general
hypochondriasis and disease conviction subscales and
significantly low scores on the psychological versus somatic
concern subscale, as measured in relation to normative data.
There were, however, no significant differences in the
subscale scores between the two groups and the two groups had
identical illness behaviour profiles.

the illness behaviour questionnaire cannot be taken as
evidence that chronic fatigue syndrome is a variety of
abnormal illness behaviour, because the same profile occurs in
multiple sclerosis. Neither can they be taken as evidence that
chronic fatigue and multiple sclerosis share an aetiology.
More needs to be known about the origins of illness beliefs in
chronic fatigue syndrome, especially as they are important in
determining outcome.

Trigwell P, Hatcher S, Johnson M, Stanley P, House A

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