, Gloucester, MA

October 11, 2013

Cognitive therapy effective for chronic fatigue

Personal Matters
Susan Britt

---- — Cognitive therapy is often life-changing for those who learn its techniques.

A short-term and effective form of counseling that deals with an individual’s thoughts or perceptions, cognitive therapy helps many people overcome negative or unrealistic patterns of thinking, and teaches them to replace negative thinking habits with healthy and positive ones.

Cognitive therapy has been shown to be almost equal to the most effective treatments for anxiety and depression, according to a landmark 1995 Consumer Reports survey.

Now, yet another important use of cognitive therapy is developing in medical research literature — as a helpful component in the treatment of chronic fatigue and pain. An article published in the British Medical Journal reported a study on its effectiveness in helping chronic fatigue patients reevaluate their beliefs about the illness.

The study subjects had been suffering from symptoms of fatigue for at least six months. Some patients received medical care alone, while others received medical care plus 16 weekly individual cognitive therapy sessions. Members of both groups were evaluated at different times over the course of a year.

At the 12-month evaluation, scores on the daily functioning scales were significantly better for those who had received cognitive therapy in addition to medical care. Sixty percent of the cognitive therapy patients reported significant improvement, compared with 23 percent of those who had not received cognitive therapy.

The researchers who conducted the study concluded that the addition of cognitive therapy to medical treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome “leads to sustained benefits in function.”

In the U.S., a 12-member National Institutes of Health panel of experts in various health care fields found strong evidence for cognitive techniques, which teach patients to alter negative thought patterns about their illness, as effective therapy in the treatment of pain.

The research continues, but these studies seem to support the importance of the mind-body connection. While it is generally accepted, more and more research supports the theory that the mind and body do not function separately, but rather, are two parts of a single, complex system.

More recent research conducted by our National Institutes of Health in 2012 — this study was conducted at community health care agencies rather than at private behavioral health practices — seems to confirm the positive outcomes when cognitive therapy is introduced along with medical treatment.

In a recent article from the University of Maryland Medical Center, “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that more than 1 million Americans have the disease, and millions more have similar symptoms but do not meet the full criteria for CFS.” According to this article, the CDC reports that fewer than 20 percent in the U.S. have been diagnosed with this disease. The major symptom for chronic fatigue syndrome is deep, debilitating, unexplained fatigue, not caused by depression or any other illness, which lasts for more than six consecutive months.

Obviously, if you recognize yourself or a loved one in this description, please see your physician. If you are diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a serious condition that more studies seem to relate to genetic hormonal and brain function issues, you may want to consider the addition of cognitive therapy to your medical treatment.


Based in Rockport, psychotherapist and life coach Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches individuals to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. She may be contacted or 978-546-9431.