Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Reduces Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis

sick woman
sick woman
Participants also reported a reduction in anxiety and subjective cognitive impairment.

BARCELONA — A fully-automated and interactive online fatigue management program for patients with multiple sclerosis is comparable to in-person cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for the reduction of fatigue, according to data presented at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) Congress in Barcelona.

In previous trials, face-to-face CBT or exercise programs were shown to be efficacious in reducing fatigue in patients with MS. For this study, Jana Poettgen, a cognitive psychologist at the University Medical Center Hamburg Eppendorf in Hamburg, Germany, and colleagues developed the ELEVIDA online fatigue management program based off of a manualized face-to-face CBT intervention. The researchers sought to see how the intervention primarily affected fatigue as measured by the Chalder Fatigue Scale, as well as cognition, quality of life, anxiety, mood, and self-reported neuropsychological function in patients with MS.

The researchers recruited 275 patients from the German Multiple Sclerosis Society; 139 were randomized to ELEVIDA and 136 to the waitlist control group. At baseline, both groups were comparable in age, sex, education, disease duration, and disease course. Overall, 224 of the 275 participants completed an assessment at the three-month follow-up. The ELEVIDA program significantly reduced fatigue (Chalder Fatigue Scale d= .537), and the ELEVIDA group also reported significant improvements in anxiety and subjective cognitive impairment, however no significant treatment effects were seen for depression or coping.

Overall, the online ELEVIDA program showed efficacy for the reduction of fatigue in MS, and may be a more cost-effective treatment option. The researchers are now studying whether the effects of the program can be maintained over longer follow-up periods.

For more coverage of ECTRIMS 2015, go here.


  1. Poettgen J et al. Abstract 135. Presented at: The European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) Congress; Oct. 7-10, 2015; Barcelona.