Research abstract:


Qualitative studies indicate that individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) commonly experience illness invalidation from medical professionals that is often experienced as stressful and may contribute to strained patient-provider relationships, transfers of care, and/or decreased treatment adherence.


To examine the impact of perceived stress and illness invalidation from medical professionals on ME/CFS symptom severity.


Adults with ME/CFS (N = 266) participated in an online survey, where they completed the Illness Invalidation Inventory (I*3) [Kool MB, van Middendorp H, Lumley MA, et al. Lack of understanding in fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis: the Illness Invalidation Inventory (3*I).

Ann Rheum Dis. 2010;69:1990-1995.], the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) [Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R. A global measure of perceived stress. J Health Soc Behav. 1983;24:385-396.], and the CDC Symptom Inventory for Assessment of CFS. Results were evaluated via hierarchical regression.


Neither perceived stress nor illness invalidation from medical professionals were significant predictors of ME/CFS symptom severity.

Illness invalidation from medical professionals was positively correlated with illness invalidation from family, work colleagues, and social service workers.


Results called into question the influence of psychological stress in ME/CFS symptom exacerbation, thus contributing additional information to the body of literature exploring the underlying mechanisms of ME/CFS. Additionally, this study suggested the particular importance of medical providers striving to create a validating relationship with patients who have ME/CFS.

Perceived stress, illness invalidation, and symptom severity in myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome, by Elizabeth A. Kendrick & Denise Beesley in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior 08 Nov 2016 [Preprint]

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