Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition centred around symptoms of severe fatigue and exhaustion. It is also commonly known as ME, which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis with the myalgia meaning muscle pain and the encephalomyelitis referring to an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Although both terms are used interchangeably there has been considerable debate amongst sufferers and medical experts as to whether these terms refer to the same or differing conditions. Although anyone can potentially suffer from this condition, CFS is more common in women and usually develops in the early 20s to mid-40s age groups.
Though the symptoms of CFS will inevitably vary from person to person the condition is often characterised by feelings of intense fatigue 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. If you suffer with CFS there will often be times when these symptoms diminish and you are able to enjoy everyday activities, but this can often be matched by times when the symptoms severely affect your everyday life, health and happiness. There is currently no cure for CFS, and so, consequently, treatment is primarily aimed at managing symptoms and helping the sufferer to adapt to daily life. Listed below are some of the main symptoms associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Not everyone will experience each of these symptoms, and there maybe a host of other symptoms that are not listed here. These key symptoms must have been experienced for at least six months and be different to simply being ‘tired’.
How do you know if you have chronic fatigue syndrome? Signs may include:
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; skin sensations; psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety, irritability and panic attacks. It can also include less common symptoms such as dizziness, excess sweating, balance problems, and difficulty controlling body temperature.
Your therapist may use a specific approach such as cognitive behavioural therapy which has proven effective in reducing the stress surrounding CFS, or combine several approaches in order to tailor the therapy to your specific needs.