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Psychol Health Med. 2015;20(2):210-6. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2014.951370. Epub 2014 Sep 2.

Pain in people with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: the role of traumatic stress and coping strategies.

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a School of Life, Sport and Social Sciences , Edinburgh Napier University , Edinburgh , UK.


Pain is a significant problem for many people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). This exploratory study investigated the extent to which severity of pain was related to coping strategies and post-traumatic symptomatology in people with CFS/ME. Participants comprised 27 individuals with CFS/ME and 27 healthy controls. All participants completed the CFS/ME Symptom Questionnaire, the brief pain inventory, the impact of event scale-revised and the brief-COPE. It was found that CFS/ME participants present with significantly more post-traumatic stress symptoms and report significantly less emotion focused strategies and problem focused coping strategies compared with healthy controls. Severity of pain in the CFS/ME subgroup was not associated with traumatic symptomatology, although those with severe pain reported less use of self-distraction, positive re-framing and acceptance than those with mild pain. Our results suggest that the enhancement of certain coping strategies (facilitated by psychological interventions such as acceptance and commitment therapy) may be beneficial in alleviating pain in people with CFS/ME.


chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis; coping; pain; traumatic stress

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