Non-pharmacological approaches to treatment.
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as currently defined overlaps with other syndromes including chronic pain, fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression. It also resembles historical descriptions of neurasthenia. The role of psychological (cognitive) and behavioural therapies in CFS is examined. There are both pragmatic and theoretical arguments for their application to CFS. It is pragmatic to target obvious and treatable factors including inactivity and depression. A theoretical model in which psychological, physiological and social factors interact offers a plausible rationale for such treatment but is not yet empirically proven. While there is evidence for the efficacy of this type of therapy in related syndromes, the evidence in CFS is inconclusive. A randomized controlled trial of combined cognitive and behavioural therapy currently in progress is described. Initial results suggest that most patients receiving cognitive behaviour therapy improve, especially in terms of functional impairment. It remains to be seen whether this therapy will prove to be more effective than standard general practitioner care. In the meantime cognitive behaviour therapy offers a pragmatic and rational therapy for patients with CFS.