Sociosomatics & illness in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

OBJECTIVE: This study examines social processes that construct

the course of chronic illness. Specifically, it identifies and

describes mechanisms that constitute the process of role

constriction in employment for individuals with chronic


METHOD: Sixty-six persons meeting the Centers for

Disease Control case definition of chronic fatigue syndrome

(CFS) participated in a longitudinal study involving three

waves of data collection over 3 years. Qualitative and

quantitative methods were combined in the research, which

included face- to-face semistructured interviews, telephone

interviews, and self- report questionnaires. Materials

presented in this study are drawn principally from the Year 1

face-to-face and telephone interviews.

RESULTS: When patterns

of symptoms and of the illness course in CFS intersect with

work requirements, they impede performance and place ill

individuals at risk for job loss. Persons with CFS devise and

implement specific strategies to resist role constriction and

remain in the work force.

CONCLUSIONS: Role constriction is a

social process of marginalization in chronic illness. Opposing

forces of marginalization and resistance define the social

course in chronic illness and suggest that chronicity can be

thought of as a marginalized position in social space.

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