Objective: It has been suggested that people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have low self-esteem; however, this is not necessarily apparent when self-esteem is measured overtly. This study is the first to investigate underlying self-esteem using information-processing measures and overtly administered measures of self-esteem with this population.
Methods: The study comprised 68 participants (24 CFS, 24 healthy volunteers, and 20 chronic illness volunteers). A Self-Statements Questionnaire (SSQ) and an Emotional Stroop Test (EST) using neutral, positive, and negative trait words were administered.
Results: Participants with CFS reported lower self-esteem than the two comparison groups on overt measures. Overt responses, however, did not fully account for the full extent of the interference effect from the negative word Stroop compared to the positive word Stroop.
Conclusion: In contrast to previous studies, participants with CFS reported lower levels of self-esteem on overt measures than two comparison groups. It is suggested, however, that the extent to which participants reported low self-esteem did not fully reflect their underlying low self-esteem and that this may result from the use of rigidly held defence mechanisms. Further use of information-processing measures, in contrast to relying only on self-report measures, is advocated for future research.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Inc.