Doctorate in Clinical Psychology: Main Research Portfolio
: 1) Critical Review of Literature: Solution focused approaches in an intellectual disabilities context: a narrative review; 2) Evaluating & Improving OCD-UK's conference: collaboration between people with personal experience and professionals: 3) Cognitive-behavioural factors involved in CFS/ME and IBS

  • Hazel Carrick

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Clinical Psychology (DClinPsy)


Objectives: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME (CFS/ME) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are known to be associated with poor quality of life and impaired functioning. Similar psychological drivers have been identified in these conditions, such as beliefs about symptoms (cause, consequence and management) and behavioural responses (withdrawal, avoidance and safety seeking). The aim of this study was to compare CFS/ME and IBS groups regarding these factors to establish the extent to which they are similar (transdiagnostic) and different (disorder-specific). Method: Using a cross sectional design, CFS/ME participants (n= 21), IBS participants (n=40), participants with co-morbid CFS/ME and IBS (n= 17) and healthy controls (n=65) were compared on a range of self-report questionnaires. This included measures of general psychological well-being (depression, anxiety, mental defeat, functioning). Novel measures were also developed to measure transdiagnostic and disorder-specific beliefs and behaviours, all of which were found to have good internal consistency. Results: Compared to the controls, the clinical groups reported poorer psychological wellbeing and endorsed more negative transdiagnostic beliefs and behaviours than healthy controls. The CFS/ME and co-morbid groups also scored significantly higher than the IBS group. Additionally, the CFS/ME group endorsed more disorder-specific beliefs and behaviours related to fatigue, while the IBS group scored higher on disorder-specific characteristics relevant to gastrointestinal symptoms. The comorbid group showed characteristics of both CFS/ME and IBS. Conclusions: These study found similarities and differences between CFS/ME and IBS participants, regarding their beliefs about symptoms and behavioural responses to symptoms. This indicates that it may be appropriate to use a modular transdiagnostic cognitive-behavioural approach for these problems, whereby therapy would start by addressing their common features and become more tailored to disorder-specific features as therapy progresses. For patients with CFS/ME, potentially unhelpful fatigue-related beliefs and behaviours should be addressed. Similarly, IBS patients may benefit from a focus on relevant gastrointestinal beliefs and behaviours. Implications for future research are discussed.
Date of Award14 Sept 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPaul Salkovskis (Supervisor), Cathy Randle-Phillips (Supervisor) & Josie Millar (Supervisor)

Cite this