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What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Myalagic Encephalopathy (ME)

There are a number of different names for what is an illness of uncertain cause affecting many thousands of people.

  • Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME) (The ME Association feels this is more appropriate than the original, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
  • Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS)
  • Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)

They can all be defined as unexplained persistent exhaustion, which is not relieved by rest. Severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, light sensitivity, poor memory and concentration are commonplace.

These symptoms can either fluctuate in intensity or even disappear for periods of time and then return. CFS/ME greatly limits the sufferer’s ability to function at their best in their professional, home, school and family lives.

There are as many as 250,000 people with CFS/ME in the UK alone – an astounding number for a condition that has attracted so little serious examination until recently.

Though the symptoms of CFS vary from person to person, the condition is often characterised by feelings of intense fatigue and exhaustion, along with difficulties involving memory, concentration and a general feeling of discomfort or lack of well being. Many of these symptoms overlap with those of depression including poor concentration, extreme fatigue, and sleep disturbance; however, it is the prominence of the physical symptoms of CFS that separates diagnosis.

  • Severe fatigue that does not go away with sleep or rest
  • Muscular pain, joint pain or severe headaches
  • Physical or mental exertion makes symptoms worse
  • Sore throat
  • Impairment in short-term memory and concentration
  • Painful lymph nodes
  • Stomach pain and other problems such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia or unrefreshing sleep
  • Sensitivity to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods
  • Psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety, irritability and panic attacks
  • Less common symptoms such as dizziness, excess sweating, balance problems, and difficulty controlling body temperature.

If you suffer with CFS there will be times when these symptoms lessen and you are able to enjoy everyday activities, conversely this can be matched by times when the symptoms severely affect your everyday life, health and happiness. There is currently no cure for CFS – treatment is primarily aimed at managing symptoms and helping the sufferer to adapt to daily life.

What Causes CFS/ME?

It is not known exactly what causes CFS/ME. Various theories have been suggested, including:

  • a viral infection
  • problems with the immune system
  • an imbalance of hormones
  • an operation or an accident
  • psychiatric problems, such as stress and emotional trauma

Some people report experiencing a slow, insidious onset. It is thought that some people are more susceptible to the condition due to their genes. However, more research is needed to confirm exactly what causes the condition.

How Common is CFS? 

  • CFS/ME affects between 2 and 4 people per 1000 of the population.
  •  It affects people of all ages, including children as young as five years old.
  •  The commonest age of onset is between the early twenties to mid-forties.
  •  CFS/ME is diagnosed about twice as often in women compared to men.
  •  It affects all social classes.

How Talking to Siobhan Can Help

Siobhan will help you to change unhelpful thought and behaviour patterns that aggravate symptoms and find options for dealing with the impact that the illness is having upon your life.

CBT can be particularly helpful if you find it difficult to manage and pace your mental and physical activity. It can also help you to find ways to cope with issues such as demoralisation, frustration, guilt, anxiety, panic and depression, and to feel more in control of the illness rather than feeling controlled by it.

Siobhan can help with practical issues such as:

  • Managing energy and activity
  • Setting up a sleep routine
  • Dealing with reactions or attitudes to CFS/M.E. that can slow recovery
  • Goal setting
  • Psychological support and achieving improved physical functioning.
  • Employing effective coping strategies and relaxation techniques