Symptoms, physical activity and mood memories in asthma and chronic fatigue syndrome: mixed methods study


  • I. Alexeeva
  • M. Martin


Background: Enhanced cognitive processing of health-related information is implicated in inaccurate symptom perception and in the maintenance of chronic symptoms. The study investigated cognitive mechanisms of memories for illness- and health-related information in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), asthma, and healthy controls. Method: 87 CFS, 56 asthma, and 60 healthy controls participated in a mixed methods quasi-experimental Internet-based study. Participants recalled four events (physical activity, fatigue, pain, happiness), and filled out questionnaires about symptoms, functioning, and mood. A qualitative thematic analysis of memories’ content was conducted, utilizing a data-driven atheoretical approach. Expected Results: CFS and asthma groups recalled significantly richer and more diverse in content physical activity memories, compared to controls, reflecting a complex multidimensional construct. They also recalled activity memories related to illness, symptoms, or treatment, unlike healthy controls who viewed physical activity as purely exercise-related. CFS and asthma groups recalled intense and diverse fatigue memories, which, particularly for CFS, reflected a stable, global, profound view of fatigue. Current stage of work: Data analysis Discussion: The evidence supported the hypothesis that there is enhanced processing of health- and illness-related information in people with chronic conditions, which may contribute to symptom overperception and maintenance. Exploration of memory contents suggested that CFS and asthma groups perceived fatigue and activity as more complex, pervasive, profound, and multidimensional phenomena, than healthy people. The findings may be informative for cognitive-behavioural interventions that work to modify negative, stable and global views into less profound and catastrophic beliefs aiming to reduce activity avoidance and improve functioning.





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