Women's experiences of increasing subjective well-being in CFS/ME through leisure-based arts and crafts activities: a qualitative study

Disabil Rehabil. 2008;30(17):1279-88. doi: 10.1080/09638280701654518.


Purpose: To understand the meanings of art-making among a group of women living with the occupational constraints and stigma of CFS/ME. The study explored their initial motives for art-making, and then examined how art-making had subsequently influenced their subjective well-being.

Method: Ten women with CFS/ME were interviewed; three provided lengthy written accounts to the interview questions.

Findings: Illness had resulted in devastating occupational and role loss. Participants took many years to make positive lifestyle changes. Art-making was typically discovered once participants had accepted the long-term nature of CFS/ME, accommodated to illness, and reprioritized occupations. Several factors then attracted participants specifically to art-making. It was perceived as manageable within the constraints of ill-health. Participants also tended to be familiar with craft skills; had family members interested in arts and crafts, and some desired a means to express grief and loss. Once established as a leisure activity, art-making increased subjective well-being mainly through providing increased satisfaction in daily life, positive self-image, hope, and contact with the outside world. Participants recommended provision of occupational/recreational counselling earlier in the illness trajectory.

Conclusions: Creative art-making occurred as part of a broader acceptance and adjustment process to CFS/ME, and allowed some psychological escape from a circumscribed lifeworld.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Art Therapy*
  • Creativity*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological*
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Therapy / methods*
  • Prejudice
  • Quality of Life*