The post-viral fatigue syndrome
Post-viral fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a physically debilitating disorder associated with chronic disabling fatigue. This thesis presents two studies which look at the impact of illness from a personal-psychological and from a family perspective. The first investigates the psychological features of the syndrome. The prevalence of psychiatric disorder in 20 patients with the PVFS was determined. Sixty percent satisfied criteria for a current psychiatric disorder. Diagnoses were of neurotic depression and other neuroses. Only 25 % of a comparatively disabled group of 20 arthritis sufferers received similar diagnoses. Diagnoses did not substantially differ in type from a group of 20 subjects with major depressive disorders, although selected differences in symptom profile and the role of previous life-time psychiatric episodes, suggest that the PVFS cannot be regarded as a variant form of depressive disorder. A logistic regression analysis achieved a satisfactory separation of the two disorders on the basis of psychiatric symptoms. The second study investigates 9 school-aged children with mothers suffering from the syndrome, and 9 children with healthy parents. The children in the PVFS group had been exposed to their mother's illness from between 18 months and 14 years. They were found to have significantly more problems in the school environment in comparison to controls, rated as more shy and anxious, less assertive and with more relationship problems with peers. General family orientation was less active with fewer out-of-home family pursuits. Family interactions were somewhat more negative. Child adjustment is discussed in terms of the linkages between family, school and peer-group in the lives of these children. Investigations into the adaptive potential of such linkages and the permeability of the boundaries between the spheres raise important questions for ameliorative work in the counselling of PVFS sufferers and their families.