By Steven Lubet in Social Science Space.
It is a truism in psychology that old ideas die hard and even educated minds are hard to change, but it is still distressing to see the phenomenon displayed in medicine, where open-mindedness is formally celebrated as a virtue. Recent events in the United Kingdom, however, establish once again that settled opinions can be difficult, if not impossible, to dislodge, even when the consequences to patients are severe.
In 2015, the United States Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) recognized chronic fatigue syndrome as “a serious, chronic, complex, and multisystem disease,” rather than a psychological condition. Since then, U.S. agencies, including the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, dropped their previous treatment recommendations for psychological and behavioral interventions such as cognitive behavior therapy and graded exercise therapy, which many patients had found harmful. Progress has come much more slowly in the United Kingdom, where a group of psychiatrists and other physicians have stuck tenaciously to CBT and GET, on the theory that the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (sometimes called myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME/CFS) are due to dysfunctional “illness beliefs” and consequent “deconditioning.”
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