- The Health Council of the Netherlands has issued a report on the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is a real and seriously debilitating condition which imposes limitations on an individual’s personal, occupational and social functioning. It is a syndrome of unknown aetiology without physical signs or biological markers. Although there is no disease, patients both feel ill and give the appearance of being ill. There is no consensus on whether CSF patients are able to work or whether they should be entitled to social security benefits. An imbalance between demand and coping is central in CFS, with stress as an important intermediary factor. It is little use concluding that unexplained signs are ‘psychological’ or that ‘I cannot find anything wrong with you so you must be healthy’. The classical view that mind and body are separate systems is outmoded. The bio-psycho-social model of disease may be helpful in describing the interaction between body, mind and circumstance. Putting the CFS patient at ease and explaining the pathophysiology of the symptoms is a useful approach but many patients and patient associations are still very somatically orientated, thereby sustaining the condition. However, in patients who accept that their problems may be stress-induced and are prepared to participate in therapy, some therapies have been proven to be effective, notably cognitive behavioural therapy.
Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 2005;149:739-41