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Psychiatry. 2011 Spring;74(1):21-30. doi: 10.1521/psyc.2011.74.1.21.

Self-critical perfectionism, stress generation, and stress sensitivity in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: relationship with severity of depression.

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Department of Psychology at the University of Leuven, in Leuven, Belgium.


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a highly disabling disorder that is part of a broader spectrum of chronic pain and fatigue disorders. Although the etiology and pathogenesis of CFS largely remain unclear, there is increasing evidence that CFS shares important pathophysiological disturbances with mood disorders in terms of disturbances in the stress response and the stress system. From a psycho-dynamic perspective, self-critical perfectionism and related personality factors are hypothesized to explain in part impairments of the stress response in both depression and CFS. Yet, although there is ample evidence that high levels of self-critical perfectionism are associated with stress generation and increased stress sensitivity in depression, evidence supporting this hypothesis in CFS is currently lacking. This study therefore set out to investigate the relationship between self-critical perfectionism, the active generation of stress, stress sensitivity, and levels of depression in a sample of 57 patients diagnosed with CFS using an ecological momentary assessment approach. Results showed, congruent with theoretical assumptions, that self-critical perfectionism was associated with the generation of daily hassles, which in turn predicted higher levels of depression. Moreover, multilevel analyses showed that self-critical perfectionism was related to increased stress sensitivity in CFS patients over a 14-day period, and that increased stress sensitivity in turn was related to increased levels of depression. The implications of these findings for future research and particularly for the development of psychodynamic treatment approaches of CFS and related conditions are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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