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Research suggests that the personality factor of self-critical or maladaptive perfectionism may be implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). However, it is not clear whether self-critical perfectionism (SCP) also predicts daily symptoms in CFS.
In the present study we investigated whether SCP predicted fatigue and pain over a 14-day period in a sample of 90 CFS patients using a diary method approach. After completing the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ) as a measure of SCP, patients were asked each day for 14 days to complete Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) of fatigue, pain and severity of depression. Data were analysed using multilevel analysis.
The results from unconditional models revealed considerable fluctuations in fatigue over the 14 days, suggesting strong temporal variability in fatigue. By contrast, pain was relatively stable over time but showed significant inter-individual differences. Congruent with expectations, fixed-effect models showed that SCP was prospectively associated with higher daily fatigue and pain levels over the 14-day period, even after controlling for levels of depression.
This is the first study to show that SCP predicts both fatigue and pain symptoms in CFS in the daily course of life. Hence, therapeutic interventions aimed at targeting SCP should be considered in the treatment of CFS patients with such features.
Studies of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) point to hypofunction, although there are negative reports. Suggested mechanisms include a reduced hypothalamic or supra-hypothalamic stimulus to the HPA axis and enhanced sensitivity to the negative feedback of glucocorticoids. The aim of the current study was to investigate HPA axis function in CFS with the dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing factor (Dex/CRF) test, in analogy with research in affective disorders.
Thirty-four well-characterized female CFS patients and 25 healthy control subjects participated in the low-dose Dex/CRF test. Current major depressive episode was an exclusion criterion. History of early-life stress (ELS) was assessed with the Structured Trauma Interview.
Salivary cortisol responses after 0.5 mg Dex were lower in CFS patients than in controls (before 100 μg CRF, p=0.038; after 100 μg CRF, p=0.015). A secondary analysis revealed an influence of early-life stress and of oestrogen intake. After removal of the 10 participants who were taking an oral oestrogen, patients without a history of ELS showed lower cortisol responses than patients with ELS and controls (before CRF, p=0.005; after CRF, p=0.008).
CFS is globally associated with reduced cortisol responses in the combined low-dose Dex/CRF test, but this effect is only clearly present in CFS patients without a history of ELS. This study provides further support for an enhanced glucocorticoid negative feedback and/or a reduced central HPA axis drive in CFS. Furthermore, it demonstrates that ELS is an important variable to consider in CFS research.
Chronic pain is a phenomenon with important psychiatric aspects from a diagnostic as well as a therapeutic point of view. The place of chronic pain in the different versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the differential-diagnosis are critically discussed. The comorbidity with depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders is extensively treated. Finally, the essential role of the psychiatrist in the multidisciplinary therapeutic approach of these patients is emphasised.
For all controlled studies that bear upon the analgesic-effect of antidepressants, a meta-analysis was conducted to get an estimation of the effect size and to get a sight on the possible modes of action. For this purpose both content and methodological variables were coded for each study. The mean size of the analgesic effect is 0.63. This means that the average patient getting an antidepressant has less pain than 74% of the patients getting a placebo. However because of selective drop-out and the use of psychometri-cally inadequate pain scales, this may be an over-estimation. Real analgesic qualities of antidepressive agents seem to offer the most plausible explanation for the effect, but the importance of serotonin reuptake blocking is not confirmed. A main objection, however, is that in all studies the depression variable was insufficiently controlled at inclusion. Because both the estimation of the effect size as the explanation of the effect are confounded with methodological doubts, it is concluded that further studies need to be done to overcome these difficulties.
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