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Attentional bias is an important psychological mechanism that has been extensively explored within the anxiety literature and more recently in chronic pain. Cognitive behavioural models of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and chronic pain suggest an overlap in the mechanisms of these two conditions. the current study investigated attentional bias towards health-threat stimuli in individuals with CFS, compared to healthy controls. the study also examined whether individuals with CFS have impaired executive attention, and how it was related to attentional bias.
Two participant groups, CFS (n = 27) and healthy control (n = 35), completed a Visual Probe Task measuring attentional bias towards health-threat stimuli (words and pictures) presented at 500ms and 1250ms, and an Attention Network Test measuring alerting, orienting and executive attention. Participants also completed a series of standard self-report measures.
When compared to the control group, the CFS group showed greater attentional bias towards threat-words, but not pictures, regardless of stimulus duration. This was not related to anxiety or depression. the CFS group was also significantly impaired on executive attention compared to the controls. Post-hoc analyses indicated that only CFS individuals with poor executive attention showed a threat-word bias when compared to controls and CFS individuals with good executive attention.
The findings from this study suggest that CFS individuals show enhanced attentional biases for health-threat stimuli, which may contribute to the perpetuation of the condition. Moreover, the attentional biases in CFS are dependent on an individual's capacity to voluntarily control their attention.
Studies have shown that specific cognitions and behaviours play a role in maintaining chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). However, little research has investigated illness-specific cognitive processing in CFS. This study investigated whether CFS participants had an attentional bias for CFS-related stimuli and a tendency to interpret ambiguous information in a somatic way. It also determined whether cognitive processing biases were associated with co-morbidity, attentional control or self-reported unhelpful cognitions and behaviours.
A total of 52 CFS and 51 healthy participants completed self-report measures of symptoms, disability, mood, cognitions and behaviours. Participants also completed three experimental tasks, two designed specifically to tap into CFS salient cognitions: (i) visual-probe task measuring attentional bias to illness (somatic symptoms and disability) v. neutral words; (ii) interpretive bias task measuring positive v. somatic interpretations of ambiguous information; and (iii) the Attention Network Test measuring general attentional control.
Compared with controls, CFS participants showed a significant attentional bias for fatigue-related words and were significantly more likely to interpret ambiguous information in a somatic way, controlling for depression and anxiety. CFS participants had significantly poorer attentional control than healthy individuals. Attention and interpretation biases were associated with fear/avoidance beliefs. Somatic interpretations were also associated with all-or-nothing behaviour and catastrophizing.
People with CFS have illness-specific biases which may play a part in maintaining symptoms by reinforcing unhelpful illness beliefs and behaviours. Enhancing adaptive processing, such as positive interpretation biases and more flexible attention allocation, may provide beneficial intervention targets.
It is well established that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have higher levels of anxiety and depression compared with controls. However, the role of these as risk factors is less clearly established. The aims of this systematic review were to investigate: (1) whether anxiety and/or depression predict IBS onset; (2) the size of the relative risk (RR) of anxiety versus depression in IBS onset. Subgroup analyses explored if methodological factors affected the overall findings.
Prospective cohort or case–control studies were included if they: (1) focused on the development of IBS in population-based or gastroenteritis cohorts; (2) explored the effects of anxiety and/or depression at baseline as predictors of IBS onset at a future point. In all, 11 studies were included of which eight recruited participants with a gastrointestinal infection. Meta-analyses were conducted.
The risk of developing IBS was double for anxiety cases at baseline compared with those who were not [RR 2.38, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.58–3.60]. Similar results were found for depression (RR 2.06, 95% CI 1.44–2.96). Anxiety and depression seemed to play a stronger role in IBS onset in individuals with a gastrointestinal infection although this could be attributed to other differences in methodology, such as use of diagnostic interviews rather than self-report.
The findings suggest that self-reported anxiety and depression provide a twofold risk for IBS onset. There is less support for the role of anxiety or depressive disorder diagnosed using clinical interview. These findings may have implications for the development of interventions focused on IBS prevention and treatment.
The effect of prenatal distress on the risk of a small for gestational age (SGA) infant is uncertain. We have addressed the influences of prenatal stress, anxiety and depression on the risk of SGA. We also examined the effects of infant sex and timing of distress during pregnancy on any observed associations.
The study population comprised 5606 healthy nulliparous pregnant women who participated in the international prospective Screening for Obstetric and Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study. Women completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the short form of the Spielberger State–Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at 15 ± 1 and 20 ± 1 weeks' gestation. SGA was defined as birthweight below the 10th customized percentile. Logistic regression was used for data analysis, adjusting for several potential confounders such as maternal age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, socio-economic status and physical exercise.
The risk of SGA was increased in relation to mild [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.35, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.07–1.71], moderate (aOR 1.26, 95% CI 1.06–1.49), high (aOR 1.45, 95% CI 1.08–1.95) and very high stress scores (aOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.03–2.37); very high anxiety score (aOR 1.45, 95% CI 1.13–1.86); and very high depression score (aOR 1.14, 95% CI 1.05–1.24) at 20 ± 1 weeks' gestation. Sensitivity analyses showed that very high anxiety and very high depression increases the risk of SGA in males but not in females whereas stress increases the risk of SGA in both males and females.
These findings suggest that prenatal stress, anxiety and depression measured at 20 weeks' gestation increase the risk of SGA. The effects of maternal anxiety and depression on SGA were strongest in male infants.
Chronic fatigue is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). A randomized controlled trial (RCT) showed that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) was more effective in reducing MS fatigue than relaxation training (RT). The aim of the current study was to analyse additional data from this trial to determine whether (1) CBT compared to RT leads to significantly greater changes in cognitions and behaviours hypothesized to perpetuate MS fatigue; (2) changes in these variables mediate the effect of CBT on MS fatigue; and (3) these mediation effects are independent of changes in mood.
Seventy patients (CBT, n=35; RT, n=35) completed the Cognitive and Behavioural Responses to Symptoms Questionnaire (CBSQ), the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (B-IPQ) modified to measure negative representations of fatigue, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), and the Chalder Fatigue Questionnaire (CFQ), pre- and post-therapy. Multiple mediation analysis was used to determine which variables mediated the change in fatigue.
Avoidance behaviour and three cognitive variables (symptom focusing, believing symptoms are a sign of damage and a negative representation of fatigue) improved significantly more in the CBT than the RT group. Mediation analysis showed that changing negative representations of fatigue mediated the decrease in severity of fatigue. Change in anxiety covaried with reduction in fatigue but the mediation effect for negative representations of fatigue remained when controlling for improvements in mood.
Change in beliefs about fatigue play a crucial role in CBT for MS fatigue. These beliefs and the role of anxiety deserve more attention in the further development of this intervention.
The cognitive behavioural model of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) suggests that the illness is caused through reciprocal interactions between physiology, cognition, emotion and behaviour. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the psychological factors operationalized in this model could predict the onset of CFS following an acute episode of infectious mononucleosis commonly known as glandular fever (GF).
A total of 246 patients with GF were recruited into this prospective cohort study. Standardized self-report measures of perceived stress, perfectionism, somatization, mood, illness beliefs and behaviour were completed at the time of their acute illness. Follow-up questionnaires determined the incidence of new-onset chronic fatigue (CF) at 3 months and CFS at 6 months post-infection.
Of the participants, 9.4% met the criteria for CF at 3 months and 7.8% met the criteria for CFS at 6 months. Logistic regression revealed that factors proposed to predispose people to CFS including anxiety, depression, somatization and perfectionism were associated with new-onset CFS. Negative illness beliefs including perceiving GF to be a serious, distressing condition, that will last a long time and is uncontrollable, and responding to symptoms in an all-or-nothing behavioural pattern were also significant predictors. All-or-nothing behaviour was the most significant predictor of CFS at 6 months. Perceived stress and consistently limiting activity at the time of GF were not significantly associated with CFS.
The findings from this study provide support for the cognitive behavioural model and a good basis for developing prevention and early intervention strategies for CFS.
Recent guidelines for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) emphasize the need for research to facilitate home-based self-management for these patients in primary care. The aim of the current study was to test the efficacy of a manualized cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)-based self-management programme for IBS in a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Sixty-four primary-care patients meeting Rome criteria for IBS were randomized into either self-management plus treatment as usual (TAU) (n=31) or a TAU control condition (n=33). The self-management condition included a structured 7-week manualized programme that was self-administered in conjunction with a 1-hour face-to-face therapy session and two 1-hour telephone sessions. The primary outcome measures were the Subject's Global Assessment (SGA) of Relief and the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Severity Scoring System (IBS-SSS) assessed at baseline, end of treatment (2 months), and 3 and 6 months post-treatment.
Analysis was by intention-to-treat. Twenty-three (76.7%) of the self-management group rated themselves as experiencing symptom relief across all three time periods compared to seven (21.2%) of the TAU controls [odds ratio (OR) 12.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.72–40.1]. At 8 months, 25 (83%) of the self-management group showed a clinically significant change on the IBS-SSS compared to 16 (49%) of the control group (OR 5.3, 95% CI 1.64–17.26).
This study provides preliminary evidence that CBT-based self-management in the form of a structured manual and minimal therapist contact is an effective and acceptable form of treatment for primary-care IBS patients.
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