Background: Difficulties with social function have been reported in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), but underpinning factors are unknown. Emotion recognition, theory of mind (inference of another's mental state) and 'emotional' theory of mind (eToM) (inference of another's emotional state) are important social abilities, facilitating understanding of others. This study examined emotion recognition and eToM in CFS patients and their relationship to self-reported social function.
Methods: CFS patients (n = 45) and healthy controls (HCs, n = 50) completed tasks assessing emotion recognition, basic or advanced eToM (for self and other) and a self-report measure of social function.
Results: CFS participants were poorer than HCs at recognising emotion states in the faces of others and at inferring their own emotions. Lower scores on these tasks were associated with poorer self-reported daily and social function. CFS patients demonstrated good eToM and performance on these tasks did not relate to the level of social function.
Conclusions: CFS patients do not have poor eToM, nor does eToM appear to be associated with social functioning in CFS. However, this group of patients experience difficulties in emotion recognition and inferring emotions in themselves and this may impact upon social function.