The ME Association End of Week Research Round-up

Charlotte Stephens, Research Correspondent, ME Association.

We show below brief summaries of the research studies about ME/CFS that have been published in the last week, followed by the abstracts from those studies.

All research relating to ME/CFS can be located in the Index of ME/CFS Published Research which is correct to the end of June 2020 and can be downloaded for free.

It is an A-Z of the most important published research studies and selected key documents and articles, listed by subject matter, on myalgic encephalomyelitis and/or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

You can use it to easily locate and read any research in a particular area that you might be interested in, e.g. epidemiology, infection, neurology, post-exertional malaise etc.

You can also find the Research Index in the Research section of the website together with a list of Research Summaries from the ME Association that provide lay explanations of the more important and interesting work that has been published to date.

ME/CFS Research Published 10 – 16 July 2020

This week, 2 new research studies have been published:

  • Researchers from the Netherlands looked into how patient-partner relationships affect the outcome of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in patients with CFS.
    They found that Female partners’ fatigue and relationship dissatisfaction as reported by the female patient affect treatment outcome.
  • Researchers from Wales carried out a 12-week ‘Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy’ (MBCT) course on 9 patients with ME/CFS to explore participants’ experiences of the course.
    The participants identified three areas that helped them manage living with CFS: development of acceptance, improved self-care and self-compassion, and reduction in heightened stress response.
    The researchers concluded, “MBCT appears to enable people with CFS to actively work with their symptoms, and make transformative changes in their behavioural patterns, resulting in benefits to well-being.”

ME/CFS Research References and Abstracts

1. Braamse A et al. (2020)
The role of partners’ fatigue and the patient-partner relationship in the outcome of cognitive behavioural therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome.
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 135:110133.

Abstract
Background: In chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) little is known about how partner-related factors influence patients’ fatigue symptoms and treatment outcome. We examined partners’ fatigue severity, and determined the role of partner-related factors for patients’ symptoms and the outcome of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Methods: 1356 CFS patients and their partners completed baseline measures of fatigue severity (Checklist Individual Strength), causal attributions of symptoms, partner responses to patient symptoms, and relationship satisfaction. Fatigue in partners of patients with CFS was compared with fatigue in age- and gender-matched controls from the Dutch population. Associations between partners’ fatigue severity and other partner-related factors were determined. In a subgroup of 760 CFS patients who completed CBT, logistic regression analyses were used to identify partner-related baseline predictors for treatment outcome (fatigue severity, functional impairment).

Results: Partners’ fatigue (M = 21.66, SD 11.60) was significantly lower than in controls (M = 24.58, SD = 11.02) (p < .001) and not related to patients’ fatigue (r = -0.02, p = .58). Partners’ fatigue was correlated with patients’ functional impairment (p = .001), partners’ and patients’ relationship dissatisfaction, negative partner responses, and partners’ and patients’ psychological attributions of patient symptoms at baseline (all p < .001). After controlling for patients’ baseline fatigue severity and functional impairment, only relationship dissatisfaction as reported by (female) patients significantly predicted worse treatment outcome. For male patients with female partners, higher partners’ fatigue severity predicted higher fatigue severity after CBT.

Conclusions: Female partners’ fatigue and relationship dissatisfaction as reported by the female patient should be addressed in CBT for CFS, as these factors affect treatment outcome.

2. O’Dowd B and Griffith G (2020)
“I Need to Start Listening to What my Body Is Telling Me.”: Does Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Help People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Human Arenas [Epub ahead of print].

Abstract
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) was lightly adapted for participants diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). The aim of the study was to explore participants’ experiences of the MBCT course, with a particular focus on how they applied MBCT to living with and coping with the symptoms of CFS.

Nine participants with CFS who completed the MBCT course were interviewed using semi-structured interview methods. Inductive thematic analysis, a methodology designed to generate themes from the “bottom up,” was used.

Four superordinate themes were generated from the data:
(1) awareness of unhelpful behavioral patterns associated with CFS,
(2) benefits of group solidarity,
(3) use of mindfulness tools to facilitate shifts in behavioral patterns, and
(4) a sense of change and agency.

Participants became aware of three specific transformative changes that contributed to a more skillful way of living with CFS: development of acceptance, improved self-care and self-compassion, and reduction in heightened stress response.

MBCT appears to enable people with CFS to actively work with their symptoms, and make transformative changes in their behavioral patterns, resulting in benefits to well-being.

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