A Short Summary of the Psychiatric Paradigm of ME/CFS: Angela Kennedy


By Angela Kennedy

This document provides a brief, critical overview of identified themes within the approaches to ME/CFS, that have been promoted extensively by a vociferous group of doctors and others known colloquially as the ‘Wessely School‘, after Simon Wessely, a psychiatrist who has had a key role in facilitating the emergence of the notion that ME/CFS is a psychological disorder (Hansard, cited in Marshall et al, 2001).

Unfortunately for ME/CFS sufferers themselves, the ideas espoused by this group have been accepted uncritically by many others, even though there are fundamental theoretical, methodological and ethical problems with their approach, which have caused endangerment and disenfranchisement to ME/CFS sufferers worldwide, as well as further, unnecessary, suffering.

Their approach, theoretical assumptions and apparent beliefs, as delineated below, I have termed the ‘psychiatric paradigm’. This is not meant to imply that all psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals subscribe to a ‘psychiatric paradigm’ of ME/CFS, as proposed by the ‘Wessely School’. As will be demonstrated, some psychiatrists have critiqued the notions espoused by the ‘Wessely School’. Dutton (1992), has used the word ‘paradigm’ in connection with depression/somatization explanations for ‘CFS’. I am therefore using the term ‘psychiatric paradigm’ to describe the psychiatric causation explanations for the disease ME/CFS, espoused by those such as Simon Wessely, and various others.

The main problems of the Psychiatric paradigm can be summarised as follows…

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© 2007 Angela Kennedy