Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst

Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst
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ISSN: 2167-1044


Knowing ‘ME’ Knowing You: The Discursive Negotiation of Contested Illness within a Family

Doug Crix, Jacqui Stedmon, Cordet Smart and Rudi Dallos

Although CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) has been heavily researched and contested, there is a distinct absence of studies which consider the relationship between the illness and family process. This is a striking omission given the centrality of the family to the proximal management of the illness. This study used a discourse analytic methodology to consider how talk about illness is locally negotiated by a family in the context of a single family interview. The individual in the family who had been diagnosed with CFS/ME was a sixteen yearold adolescent girl who had experienced symptoms for 18 months. Our findings suggested that family discourses about CFS/ME were polarized around the issue of intentionality. Two family members deemed the illness to represent ‘genuine illness’ and two regarded the illness to be intentionally used for advantage. These illness accounts were considered as both constitutive-off and constituted-by family conflict. We consider the implications of these findings in developing clinical formulations of the illness and in determining how best to support recovery.