Unexplained chronic fatigue and interpersonal problems: a study in a primary care population.Int J Psychiatry Med 2009; 39(3):325-40IJ
Unexplained fatigue syndromes are multidimensional phenomena that involve a constellation of symptoms. This article explores whether typical interpersonal problems are associated with self-reported and clinically-rated fatigue symptoms in chronically fatigued patients. We hypothesize that the severity of fatigue symptoms will be associated with a pattern of withdrawal from social interaction.
Interpersonal problems were assessed by means of a self-report questionnaire. Chronic fatigue was assessed with a self-report questionnaire (both self-rated and clinically-rated) in a primary care Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) group (N = 52) and compared with two other clinical populations (minor medical condition: N = 51; chronic organic disease: N = 52).
Compared to patients with a minor medical condition, CFS patients are substantially more fatigued and more socially withdrawn. Compared to patients with a chronic organic disease, somewhat more fatigue-related disability was observed in CFS patients, but no distinct interpersonal problems came to the fore. CFS patients and physicians proved to differ in their opinion on the patient's motivation. In line with the hypothesis, self-rated and clinically-scored fatigue problems proved to be related to a pattern of withdrawal from social interaction.
Differences between physicians' and patients in how symptoms are interpreted might be related to patients feeling misunderstood and result in social withdrawal.