Behavioural therapies can help with ME

Behavioural therapies can help to successfully treat chronic fatigue syndrome, new research has suggested. Published in the journal PLoS ONE, the study revealed these treatments, as well as exercise, are among the most cost-effective ways to combat the condition, which is commonly referred to as ME.

According to the analysis, a wide adoption of the approaches could save the UK economy millions of pounds, BBC News reports.

Professor Michael Sharpe from Oxford University noted: "This new evidence should encourage health service commissioners to provide these treatments to all those patients who need them."

It was demonstrated that no other treatments for the condition - symptoms of which include tiredness, poor memory and a lack of concentration - proved as successful and cost-effective as behavioural and exercise therapies.

Professor Paul McCrone, a Health Economist from King's College London, said the findings suggest the National Health Service might now begin to invest in these methods.

Professor Michael Hyland, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, comments:

"The PACE trial is a well-conducted study which has provided evidence, contrary to the assertion of patient groups, that adaptive pacing does not lead to benefit whereas cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and graded exercise therapy do.

"Nevertheless, even with the best designed studies there are several possible interpretations of the data. Adaptive pacing involved “living within physical and mental limitations imposed by the illness” as well as avoiding overexercising. In the CBT and graded exercise therapy treatment arms, patients were advised to avoid over-exercising, but, additionally, these therapies suggested procedures that the patient could perform into to achieve a gradual improvement in health.

"So although all treatment arms of this study recommended avoidance of over-activity (i.e. an element of pacing), they also differed in the amount of effort invested by the patient during treatment.

"My own research shows that the greatest non-specific predictor of therapeutic outcome is effort invested by the patient in the therapy.  An important non-specific difference, therefore, between the treatment arms in this study is the extent to which the treatments provide hope and an effort-related plan of action for achieving recovery. We cannot tell whether it is the non-specific factors of hope and effort or the specific components of CBT and graded exercise therapy that are important for outcome.  Perhaps the safest conclusion from this study is that therapy works – but just why therapy works remains as controversial for chronic fatigue syndrome as it is always has been for other conditions - see Wampold's The Great Psychotherapy Debate."