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J R Soc Med. 1995 Jun;88(6):325-9.

Diagnosis in chronic illness: disabling or enabling--the case of chronic fatigue syndrome.

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National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra.


This paper examines doctors' and patients' views on the consequences of an increasingly common symptomatic diagnosis, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Two studies were conducted: the first comprised interviews with 20 general practitioners; the second was a longitudinal study, comprising three interviews over a period of 2 years with 50 people diagnosed with CFS. Contrasts were apparent between doctors' practical and ethical concerns about articulating a diagnosis of CFS and patients' experiences with and without such a diagnosis. Seventy per cent of the doctors were reluctant to articulate a diagnosis of CFS. They felt constrained by the scientific uncertainty regarding its aetiology and by a concern that diagnosis might become a disabling self-fulfilling prophecy. Patients, by contrast, highlighted the enabling aspects of a singular coherent diagnosis and emphasized the negative effects of having no explanation for their problems.

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