Thesis abstract:

Exploring the experiences and occupations of men with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) using a gadamerian interpretive phenomenological framework, by Anne Johnson, 2107 University of the West of England Phd thesis [Online March 31, 2017]

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) known interchangeably as myalgic encephalomyelitis or encephalomyelopathy (ME) is a contentious and often misunderstood condition of unknown cause. Associated symptoms may fluctuate and include post exertional mental and physical fatigue, sleep disturbance, generalised aches and pains and for some, hypersensitivities to alcohol, light and noise.

The impact of having CFS/ME can result in disruption to all aspects of day to day life for children and adults regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic factors. In adults, it is estimated that population prevalence is 0.2-0.4% which is higher than in children and that women are affected by the condition more than men by a ratio of 3:1.

The vast majority of the literature linked to living with CFS/ME focuses on the experiences of women with the condition and as a consequence, there is a dearth of literature reporting on the experiences of men. Additionally, men with CFS/ME are considered as difficult to recruit in terms of research participation.

The focus of this study was to explore the experiences of men living with CFS/ME and its impact on their day to day lives and occupations.

A qualitative design was employed underpinned by interpretive phenomenology. Eight men aged between 21 and 68 years old were recruited with a clinically confirmed diagnosis of CFS/ME and interviewed up to four times. Rich data were generated through dialogue, poetry and artworks. Interpretations were made using the hermeneutic work of Gadamer (2004) as a philosophical framework.

Thematic analysis was employed. Unique and shared experiences were identified from the data. Shared findings were synthesised into three themes to reflect the temporally situated nature of the men’s experiences.

The findings illustrate that existentialist notions of ‘being-in-the-world’ were significantly disrupted by the presence of CFS/ME. Additionally, the occupational dimension of ‘being-in-the-world’ referred to as ‘doing’ and notions of ‘belonging’ and ‘becoming’ were also disrupted. How CFS/ME impacted upon individual risks to survival and health was also elicited.

New knowledge was generated to add to the body of work linked to the impact of CFS/ME on the lives and occupations of men with the condition. A unique way of knowing about the meaning of occupation was also gained through fusing philosophical and occupational orientations/frameworks to inform occupational therapy practice and the occupational science literature.

The importance of considering the men’s ‘being-in-the-world’ was emphasised in order to understand their ‘doing’ as a dimension of ‘being’ and their subsequent ‘belonging’ and ‘becoming’. Uniquely, notions of ‘traumatised being’, associated with potentially life threatening causes of fatigue, and ’emasculated being’ were experienced by some of the men and the importance of an awareness of these concepts is addressed in terms of occupational therapists facilitating survival, well-being and ‘harmonious health’ for men with CFS/ME.

[patient stories are contained in chapter 5]

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