How science can stigmatize: The case of chronic fatigue syndrome – Source: Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, vol. 14 pp. 85-103

Objective: This paper reviews issues involving the name of an illness, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), along with flawed epidemiologic approaches, which may have further contributed to the diagnostic skepticism and stigma that those with CFS encounter.

Methods: Patient groups around the world are currently engaged in a major effort to rename this syndrome as either Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Myalgic Encephalopathy, in order to undo the negative effects of the name previously given to this illness by scientists. Moreover, during the last 15 years, estimated rates of CFS have dramatically increased in both Great Britain and the United States.

Results: We suggest that the increases in both the United States and Great Britain are due to a broadening of the case definition to additionally include cases with primary psychiatric conditions.

Conclusion: Using a broad or narrow definition of CFS will have crucial influences on CFS epidemiologic findings, on rates of psychiatric comorbidity, and ultimately on the likelihood of finding a biological marker and identified etiology.

Source: Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, vol. 14 pp. 85-103 Jason LA, Richman JA (2007). DePaul University Center for Community Research; University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA. [E-mail:;]

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