Abstract: Do support groups help people with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia? A comparison of active and inactive members

J Rheumatol. 2005 Dec;32(12):2416-20.

Friedberg F, Leung DW, Quick J.

From the Department of Psychiatry, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the benefits and problems of a chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) support organization as reported by its participants.

METHODS: Active members (n = 32) and inactive members or dropouts (n = 135) of a regional support organization for people with CFS and FM completed a 26 item questionnaire by telephone interview or by self-completion and postal return.

RESULTS: The most frequently endorsed benefits of membership were illness legitimization (67.8%), finding out helpful new information (66.4%), and feeling understood by others (62.2%). Lower frequency endorsements were given to: helped to find (35.0%) or deal with (38.5%) doctors, and helped to improve my illness (36.4%). The most frequently reported reasons for dropping out were inconvenient location (37.8%) or time (37.0%), too much negative talk or complaining (33.3%), too sick to attend (28.8%), and illness or coping improvement (29.6% each). The active-member group showed significantly higher (p < 0.04) symptom severity scores and less illness improvement (p < 0.01) in comparison to the inactive/dropout group.

CONCLUSION: This cross-sectional study suggests that support groups for CFS are viewed as helpful by participants on a number of illness related issues. On the other hand, active members reported greater symptom severity and less illness improvement than inactive members or dropouts.

PMID: 16331774 [PubMed – in process]

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