Chronic fatigue syndrome: a qualitative investigation of young patient's beliefs and coping strategies

Disabil Rehabil. 2011;33(23-24):2255-63. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.568663. Epub 2011 Apr 7.


Purpose: The aim of this pilot study was to explore illness beliefs and coping strategies among adolescent patients with chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), applying a qualitative methodology. Recent studies have explored the illness beliefs and coping strategies of adult patients with CFS/ME as possible contributing factors to the disease aetiology. These studies have mainly used quantitative methods, finding that patients often explain their illness as being due to physical causes, deny psychological causes and make use of passive and avoidant coping strategies.

Method: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with nine adolescent patients with CFS/ME, thematic analysis was adapted to the material and the results were interpreted in light of theories of attribution and coping.

Results: The qualitative method allowed for more complex and nuanced accounts of illness experience. The findings showed that the adolescents differ from what has previously been reported, applying more varied and flexible illness attributions and coping mechanisms than expected.

Conclusions: The heterogeneity suggested in the results has implications. We suggest three perspectives should be taken into account, both for further research and in clinical practice: (1) individual differences; (2) a developmental perspective and (3) interactive relational focus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Culture
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Norway
  • Perception
  • Pilot Projects
  • Qualitative Research
  • Young Adult