According to a study published by the Journal of Medical Internet research (JMIR), patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) delivered over the internet experience early benefits similar to those receiving the more societally familiar face-to-face cognitive behavioral therapy.
The study was conducted by an international team of researchers mostly from the Netherlands. Data from the study also suggests that individuals who continue to struggle with chronic fatigue despite continued Internet-based CBT would likely benefit from the addition of face-to-face CBT to their schedule.
About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult to define condition that is commonly diagnosed through the observation of chronic extreme fatigue rather than any single particular medical criteria. Patients with CFS may experience worsening of their fatigue with physical or mental exertion. However, this extreme fatigue cannot be remedied with adequate sleep like it can be in most individuals.
As with most medical conditions where a single damning medical origin cannot be determined, the origin of CFS is likely rooted in a multitude of converging and differing factors. Chronic stress, pain, and genetic makeup likely all play a role in the development of CFS.
Estimates very, but it is generally thought that chronic fatigue syndrome affects somewhere between .2% and .3% of the given population. It can often be particularly difficult to diagnose due to the lack of definitive characterizing symptoms.
About the Clinical Study
The study suggested that in certain cases, internet-based therapy proved to be as affective for most CFS patients as face-to-face therapy. Patients who felt as though they needed a more intense variety of assistance were free to “step up” to a more intense internet-CBT, or an equivalent amount of time in a more familiar face-to-face therapy environment.
Although the internet-based therapy seemed no better or worse than face-to-face CBT in times of light difficulty, patients who didn’t initially respond strongly to the web-therapy did experience improved results from face-to-face therapy in particularly trying times when fatigue was at its most intense.
As proponents of the new technology, the researchers involved in the new study acknowledge that internet-based CBT would likely reduce the amount of expensive time CFS patients have to spend in face-to-face therapy with a professional.
However, any hopes to one day replace in-person therapy seem stalled for the moment. It seems that, for some things, the human touch really can’t be beat. The research team is pitching internet-CBT as an improved first stop in a stepped therapy approach meant to appropriately counsel to CFS patients based on how their symptoms are presenting. If the internet therapy ever proves to be insufficient, the fallback should be a trained professional in a controlled environment.
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