Relationship between Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Depression Studied

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(Editor’s Note: Orginal research abstract published by the University Department of Psychiatry, and MRC Brain Metabolism Unit, Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Edinburgh.)

A recent study set out to identify the relationship between CFS and depression.

Researchers at Edinburgh University in the UK evaluated brain scans from 30 people with CFS, 12 diagnosed with depression, and 15 healthy subjects. They concluded that both CFS and depression may be neurological and due primarily to increased blood flow in the right thalamus, which is responsible for processing sight, sound, touch, and more importantly, pain.

However, there is one detail that separates CFS from depression – CFS sufferers also have an increase in blood flow to the left thalamus. The researchers believe that this lack of activity in the left thalamus may have something to do with the fact that depression alone involves more psychological problems than does CFS.

Past studies have indicated that the onset of CFS is not related to depression, and that increased depression can reactivate latent viruses, decrease the body’s immune response, and stimulate the production of certain cytokines linked to some CFS-like symptoms.

Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, states “Although many CFS patients feel depressed because of their illness, only a small minority have depression causing their fatigue.

Findings from this most recent study may bring a sense of relief to CFS sufferers who often have to convince people that their disorder is real and that their symptoms are not just in their minds.

The discovery of the increased blood flow unique to CFS patients may potentially lead to the discovery of additional physical changes responsible for developing CFS.

Sources:

Research abstract from Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

From Fatigued to Fantastic, by Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.

Healthwatch, 1999 and 2000.

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