Editorials

Chronic fatigue syndrome

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7061.831 (Published 05 October 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:831
  1. Stephen E Straus, Chief
  1. Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MA 20892, USA

    “Biopsychosocial approach” may be difficult in practice

    This week a joint working group of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Psychiatrists, and General Practitioners in Britain issued a report on chronic fatigue syndrome.1 The report constitutes, arguably, the finest contemporary position statement in the field, and physicians and patients are well advised to read it, but it is sure to engender disagreement on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The term chronic fatigue syndrome is relatively new. It first appeared in the 1988 proposal by the United States Centers for Disease Control2 to formalise a working case definition for symptoms that had been variously named and attributed to numerous causes for over two centuries. Through field testing, the case definition was revised and simplified in 1994.3 In essence, it classifies a constellation of prolonged and debilitating symptoms as worthy of medical attention and study (see box). Related case criteria were developed by consensus at Oxford in 1991.4 Neither the American nor the Oxford criteria assume the syndrome to be a …

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