Background: While cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) can lead to the normalization of fatigue levels and resumption of activities, a subgroup of patients still evaluates fatigue negatively.
Objective: The objective was to investigate whether eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy leads to a less negative evaluation of fatigue.
Method: This was a randomized single-case experimental study. Five CFS/ME patients (all female, mean age of 35 years), who had completed CBT but still evaluated fatigue negatively, received EMDR therapy. The primary outcome, that is, negative evaluation of fatigue, was assessed daily (three items, e.g., “My fatigue is frustrating”). During EMDR therapy sessions, distress in response to a selected image was measured. Clinical assessments were performed before, directly after, and one month after EMDR therapy.
Results: During EMDR therapy sessions, all patients reported high distress related to memories of having CFS/ME. EMDR therapy led to a reduction in this distress. Daily measured negative evaluations of fatigue declined in three patients, albeit not significantly. Three of five patients showed clinically relevant improvement in evaluations of fatigue on clinical pre-/post measures.
Conclusion: EMDR therapy can reduce emotional distress associated with fatigue, but it is unclear whether it can change its negative evaluation.
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Copyright © 2023 EMDR International Association
Bouman, S., Müller, F., Onghena, P., & Knoop, H. (2023). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Single-Case Experiment Testing the Effect on Persistent Negative Evaluation of Fatigue. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 17(3), 106–118. https://doi.org/10.1891/EMDR-2022-0060
Journal of EMDR Practice and Research