A new study suggests that psychotherapy and a gradual increase in exercise can significantly benefit patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Many believe the syndrome may be caused by viruses related to mouse leukemia viruses, and they are clamoring for access to antiretroviral drugs used to treat the viruses. However, it is well known that the body and mind impact each other greatly. Assuming that medical conditions can only be helped by medical treatments has a belief that is inaccurate and often prevents people from getting proven help. Certain types of psychotherapy have been found to be effective at easing conditions with true physical bases. Likewise, physiological changes can often been demonstrated as resulting from cognitive-behavioral therapy.
CBT is designed to help CFS patients regain a sense of control, and is proving to have substantial benefits for some patients. So the primary goals of cognitive-behavioral therapy are to change any distorted beliefs that individuals have of the world and of themselves that are maladaptive, and to change self defeating behavior accordingly. For CFS patients, this means learning to think differently about their fatigue, improving their ability to deal with stressful situations, and managing their disorder. CBT can also help people manage their sleep problems and find the appropriate activity levels for them. Cognitive therapy is particularly helpful for defining and setting limits, behaviors that are extremely important for these patients.
In the long-awaited study, patients who were randomly assigned to receive cognitive behavioral therapy or exercise therapy, in combination with specialized medical care, reported reduced fatigue levels and greater improvement in physical functioning than those receiving the medical care alone — or getting the medical care along with training in how to recognize the onset of fatigue and to adjust their activities accordingly.
CFPS/IBA doctors who specialize in Behavioral Medicine provide CBT for individuals suffering with CFS.