A Novel Approach to Treating CFS and Co-morbid Health Anxiety: a case study

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Abstract

Objectives
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition that affects 0.2–0.4% of the population. First-line treatments are Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or graded exercise therapy; however, these treatments yield only moderate effect sizes. Emerging research suggests that anxiety about health may be common in CFS. Health anxiety treatment models demonstrate good therapeutic outcomes; however, these models have yet to be applied to CFS. This paper describes the application of a novel cognitive behavioural approach to the treatment of both physical and anxiety related symptoms in a patient with CFS and, furthermore, presents a conceptual hypothesis regarding the mutually maintaining relationship between these two co-occurring conditions.

Design
A single-case design was used, with pre-data, post-data and follow-up data. The cognitive behavioural model of health anxiety was adapted and delivered as an eight-session intervention. The intervention was driven by an individualized formulation developed collaboratively with the patient.

Results
The application of this approach generated reliable and clinically significant reductions in physical and psychological symptoms, which were maintained at 12-month follow-up. The participant no longer fulfilled the criteria for CFS or health anxiety following eight treatment sessions. The treatment approach was found to be agreeable to the patient. All treatment hypotheses were supported.

Conclusions
An adapted cognitive behavioural approach to treating CFS and health anxiety yields positive results and shows promise for application to the broader CFS population
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-736
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Psychology & Psychotherapy
Volume24
Issue number3
Early online date6 Oct 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2017

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