What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME)? These are poorly understood conditions that are characterised by debilitating exhaustion. The condition usually impairs normal day-to-day living and many sufferers find it disabling to the degree of being housebound.
Depending where you are in the world, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). ME is seen as a more severe form of CFS in the UK. It mainly affects young adults, but children and elderly people are also affected.
The cognitive problems associated with CFS/ME can hamper speech, thought flow and short-term memory. The condition often causes sufferers often to display flu-type symptoms. The severity of symptoms and disability vary from person to person, but CFS/ME is known not to be contagious.
Who does it affect?
CFS affects 1 in 1000 people in the UK. It appears to affect women more than men: 85% of those with CFS are female. However, this figure may be inaccurate when you consider men are less upfront than women about acknowledging their symptoms and seeking professional help.
Workaholics and overachievers who drive themselves to the point of burnout are highly susceptible to CFS as are those with a history of allergies. CFS rarely affects children under 12, but it is more common amongst adolescents.
So What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Causes of ME?
The cause of CFS/ME still remains unknown by the medical profession, which leaves the question – ‘what is chronic fatigue syndrome and M.E. largely unanswered, but it can be a follow-on condition of a viral infection. Glandular Fever is sometimes a trigger point.
What we do know is that prolonged emotional, psychological or physical stress prior to the onset of the illness is common amongst sufferers. For example, bereavement, relationship problems or break-up, severe work related stress or redundancy can weaken the immune system to a point that viruses and CFS/ME can take hold.
It is suspected that CFS/ME is related to disorders that affect the immune, hormonal and nervous systems, but there’s no definitive scientific evidence of this. But CFS/ME cannot be passed from person to person.
What’s been tried to fix it?
A graded exercise program is often suggested as an approach to CFS/ME. But it is a controversial approach that often proves impractical for sufferers, but some do benefit.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an approach that helps some understand how their thinking affects their health and wellbeing. But this is also a controversial approach that fosters the view that CFS/ME is an ‘all-in-the-head’ condition that needs a psychiatric or psychological approach.
Painkillers, antibiotics and antidepressants are often prescribed, but these are not long term solutions and can often lead to dependency.
Complementary Therapies and Counselling prove to be popular amongst sufferers, especially when their condition is not taken seriously by the medical profession and seem to have more answers to the question: what is chronic fatigue syndrome and M.E.?
History of CFS/ME
In the past the medical profession answered the question ‘what is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis’ by suggesting it was a malingering ‘all-in-the-mind’ hypochondriac condition more related to depression that anything else. But today most experts agree that CFS/ME is a distinct illness with physical symptoms. However, CFS/ME still remains controversial and many Doctors still don’t recognise it as a real condition, which often makes getting a diagnosis very difficult.
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