Objective: Studies of primary and tertiary care patients suggest that maladaptive coping styles contribute to the pathogenesis and maintenance of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). We assessed coping styles in persons with unexplained fatigue and nonfatigued controls in a population-based study.
Methods: We enrolled 43 subjects meeting the 1994 Research Case Definition of CFS, matching them with 61 subjects with chronic unexplained fatigue who did not meet criteria for CFS [we term them insufficient symptoms or fatigue (ISF)] and 60 non-ill (NI) controls. Coping styles and clinical features of CFS were assessed using standard rating scales.
Results: Subjects with CFS and ISF reported significantly more escape-avoiding behavior than NI controls. There were no differences between the CFS and ISF subjects. Among participants with CFS, escape-avoiding behavior was associated with fatigue severity, pain, and disability.
Conclusions: We demonstrate significantly higher reporting of maladaptive coping in a population-based sample of people with CFS and other unexplained fatiguing illnesses defined by reproducible standardized clinical empirical means in comparison to NI controls.