Personality features and personality disorders in chronic fatigue Syndrome: A population-based study

Urs M. Nater, James F. Jones, Jin Mann S. Lin, Elizabeth Maloney, William C. Reeves, Christine Heim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) presents unique diagnostic and management challenges. Personality may be a risk factor for CFS and may contribute to the maintenance of the illness. Methods: 501 study participants were identified from the general population of Georgia: 113 people with CFS, 264 with unexplained unwellness but not CFS (insufficient fatigue, ISF) and 124 well controls. We used the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire, 4th edition, to evaluate DSM-IV personality disorders. We used the NEO Five-Factor Inventory to assess personality features (neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness). The Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory measured 5 dimensions of fatigue, and the Medical Outcomes Survey Short Form 36 measured 8 dimensions of functional impairment. Results: Twenty-nine percent of the CFS cases had at least 1 personality disorder, compared to 28% of the ISF cases and 7% of the well controls. The prevalence of paranoid, schizoid, avoidant, obsessive-compulsive and depressive personality disorders were significantly higher in CFS and ISF compared to the well controls. The CFS cases had significantly higher scores on neuroticism, and significantly lower scores on extraversion than those with ISF or the well controls. Personality features were correlated with selected composite characteristics of fatigue. Conclusions: Our results suggest that CFS is associated with an increased prevalence of maladaptive personality features and personality disorders. This might be associated with being noncompliant with treatment suggestions, displaying unhealthy behavioral strategies and lacking a stable social environment. Since maladaptive personality is not specific to CFS, it might be associated with illness per se rather than with a specific condition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)312-318
Number of pages7
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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