Medical Matters > Biopsychosocial (BPS)

ME Essential Summer 2024


Please can you explain what biopsychosocial (BPS) means. I keep seeing this term in internet discussions on ME.


BPS or Bio-Psycho-Social is a way of describing the cause and/or the management of ME/CFS.

It is not a term that the MEA endorses.

The Bio part basically means that a biological event such as an infection or immunisation has triggered an illness. However, in the case of ME/CFS, existing evidence indicates that virus has not persisted. So this finding is often interpreted by doctors who like to classify ME/CFS as a BPS condition to mean that there is no longer any biological/Bio involvement present.

Psychosocial means that an illness is being primarily wholly or partially perpetrated by psychological and/or social factors. So management should primarily consist of behavioural interventions such as CBT which are meant to address abnormal illness beliefs and behaviours. Whilst accepting that any long-term debilitating illness is going to have social and psychological effects, the emphasis in the BPS model of causation and management of ME/CFS is normally
placed on these two factors rather than any biological mechanisms. So BPS is not a term that we use in relation to ME/CFS.

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Information provided by The ME Association should not be construed as medical advice. Don't assume any new or worsened symptoms are simply the result of having ME/CFS or Long Covid. We recommend that any information you deem relevant is discussed with your NHS GP as soon as possible. It is important that you seek personalised medical advice from the GP who is in charge of your care and who knows you well.

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