Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: the Facts

CFSOverview

Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as Myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is a chronic neurological disorder that’s characterized by fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, depression, anxiety, aching muscles and joints, confusion, a sore throat, problems with cognitive function including difficulty in addition, subtraction, and something that I term ‘verbal dyslexia’, whereby the sufferer has trouble saying the correct words in the right order. There are a whole host of other symptoms, too, but those are the main ones.

The disorder can happen over time, with the gradual development of symptoms, or it could happen very suddenly. There is no set pattern to the symptoms you may experience and the order you may experience them in, but every single person suffering with CFS will experience excessive fatigue.

History of CFS

Chronic fatigue syndrome has only been recognized as a clear, distinct, medical condition in the last ten years. That means that the medical community is supposed to recognize it as a disorder as it has a distinct pattern of symptoms that appear to have no specific cause that have both psychological and physical elements.

However, before CFS was recognized, many medical professionals dismissed it as the individual simply being too tired – it was also nicknamed ‘Yuppie Flu’ by the media, who decided that the individuals suffering were simply a little bit tired of their high-flyer lifestyles. It was also thought by some doctors that CFS was simply depression – which made the media reinforce the idea that this disease was all in the individual’s heads and that really, there wasn’t much wrong.

In more recent years there has been a huge amount of research done on CFS. Although a specific cause hasn’t been found, sufferers now have treatment options and hope for the future, rather than thinking that nothing can be done for them.

Causes of CFS

There isn’t any one known cause that absolutely causes an individual to have chronic fatigue syndrome, but there are a couple of factors that could make you more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome in the future. A physical virus is often the beginning of the onset of chronic fatigue, with viruses like mono, glandular fever, meningitis and Q fever being more likely to trigger the disorder than others.

A trauma could also trigger your symptoms – something like your leg being broken, a hospital stay, your parents breaking up, abuse or a traumatic life event could also all trigger the onset of chronic fatigue. However, in some cases, there is absolutely no known cause. An individual could develop the disorder without any viruses or any trauma happening to them at all.

Treatment

Treatment for chronic fatigue tends to involve a lot of natural, self-help techniques. These techniques include pacing, which is where you try to do a little bit extra every day, never stressing yourself out but allowing your body to develop and find new tolerance levels every day. Other self-help techniques are getting a massage and stretching regularly to help your muscles, and to get into a routine at bed time to aid sleep. You should also eat a balanced, mixed diet, and if you find that you’re intolerant to any foods, steer clear of them. Employing these techniques will help with your symptoms, but it won’t cure you. You may also be treated with a low dose of antidepressants for help with your mood and sleep, and you could also have anti-anxiety medication.

Some doctors will recommend that you have a course of therapy, particularly if there is no known cause to your chronic fatigue. This is because there may be a traumatic incident somewhere in your past that is causing your chronic fatigue –  and if you deal with it through therapy, you could find that your symptoms are diminished or that they even disappear altogether.

For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/cfs.