Abstract: Caring for a relative with chronic fatigue syndrome: difficulties, cognition and acceptance over time

Journal: J R Soc Health 2002 Mar;122(1):35-42

Authors: Ax S, Gregg VH, Jones D.

Affiliation: School of Health, Liverpool John Moores University, 79 Tithebarn Street, Liverpool L2 2ER, England. mailto:heasax@yahoo.com

NLM citation: PMID: 11989141

The present study explored the difficulties experienced by carers of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) sufferers, their cognitions, and their efforts to accept the illness.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 carers to study these issues, retrospectively, over three stages: before the diagnosis of CFS, shortly after the diagnosis, and at present.

Surprisingly, the results suggested that carers, several of them absent from home during the day, felt that their lives were only minimally constrained by the illness. Nevertheless, all carers reported specific coping efforts to manage both the illness and their own distress, and indicated that they learned to accept the illness over time. However, acceptance appeared to be a form of resignation rather than a positive appreciation of the illness.

In light of the uncertainties surrounding the origin of CFS and carers’ apparent confusion, the results obtained in the present study are significant in that they increase our understanding of CFS carers’ quality of life, their efforts to cope with the illness, and the physical and emotional help they may provide to the sufferer. Such information can be usefully employed in the increasing development of counselling interventions and instrumental support networks that involve both sufferers and their carers.

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