The role of personality in the development and perpetuation of chronic fatigue syndrome

J Psychosom Res. 2000 Jun;48(6):515-24. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(00)00087-8.


Objectives: Qualitative evidence suggests that personality may have special relevance to the predisposition, precipitation and perpetuation of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). This study compares three dimensions of personality - perfectionism, self-esteem, and emotional control in the personality profiles of CFS patients (N=44) and a control group (N=44) without a history of CFS, matched for age and gender.

Methods: Participants were assessed on the MPS [Frost RO, Marten P, Lahart C, Rosenblate R. The dimensions of perfectionism. Cognit Ther Res 1990;14:449-468.]; the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale [Rosenberg M. Society and the Adolescent Self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ Press, 1965.]; the Courtauld Emotional Scale [Watson M, Greer S. Development of a questionnaire measure of emotional control. J Psychosom Res 1983;27:299-305.] and the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale [Crowne DP, Marlowe D. A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. J Consult Psychol 1960;24:349-354.].

Results: Analyses revealed that the CFS group reported higher levels than the control group on the Total Perfectionism score and Doubts about Actions and the Concern over Mistakes subscales. Furthermore, the CFS group also reported lower self-esteem than the control group. No difference between the two groups was found on the dimensions of emotional control and social desirability response bias.

Conclusion: A developmental model of CFS, which considers the predisposing, precipitating, and perpetuating factors that may account for the course of the disorder irrespective of etiology, is proposed. In the context of the results, recommendations for practice and future research are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Assessment*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Self Concept
  • Sick Role
  • Social Desirability