Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is far more complex than simple tiredness: it is a lifelong condition characterized by extreme exhaustion - both physical and mental - that cannot be cured by rest or sleep. Symptoms generally occur between periods of wellness, in bouts of different degrees of severity. The unpredictable nature and physical pain of CFS can profoundly inhibit well-being, both personally and professionally. Treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome are usually aimed at managing the symptoms of the condition, because as of yet not enough is understood about CFS to establish a cure.
More about CFS
Also known as "myalgic encephalomyelitis," CFS is a lifelong condition that recurs in cycles of illness and wellness, and this unpredictability can make a consistent work and social life difficult. During periods of illness, the patient is hindered by an inability to concentrate, constant exhaustion, and joint and muscle pain that in extreme cases can be debilitating to the point of bed-binding.
Very little is understood about what causes CFS, though studies are ongoing. It is understood, however, that women - especially those in their forties and fifties - are more prone to the condition than men, which has contributed to the idea that hormones play a role in the onset of CFS flare-ups, and that the endocrine fluctuations that occur during menopause could also be involved. There are also theories that the condition could be hereditary or a side effect of viral infections, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), mononucleosis infections (glandular fever), or rubella.
Physical Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The lack of scientific understanding about CFS means that there is no medical cure for the condition as of yet, so treatment options are aimed at managing and minimizing each patient's symptoms on a case by case basis. The primary physical symptoms are as follows:
- Frequent or recurring sore throat
- Joint pain without redness or swelling
- Muscle pain
- Significant impairment of short-term memory and concentration ability
- Consistently non-restorative sleep
- Post-exertion malaise (i.e., general feeling of illness) that lasts 24 hours or more
The way these symptoms are dealt with varies from patient to patient, but may include a combination of the following:
- Dietary alterations
- Lifestyle adjustments
- Alternative therapies (e.g., aromatherapy)
While these are likely to minimize the physical symptoms of CFS, these methods can only go so far in treating the emotional impacts of the condition.
Emotional Treatments for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The unpredictability and discomfort of CFS symptoms can make it difficult to follow a consistent professional and social routine, and the emotional impacts of living with a lifelong condition can be hard to accept. Many CFS patients rely on a combination of methods to manage these feelings, including:
- Speaking with a counselor
- Confiding in a partner, family, or friends
- Using social media to connect and share experiences with other CFS patients
- Attending support groups
Giving time to feelings of frustration, sadness, and anger is important, and often, CFS patients find that communication is key in dealing with these emotions and feeling understood.
In spite of temptation, it's important for a CFS patient not to overexert during periods of wellness, since this can often cause or contribute to a relapse. While CFS can undoubtedly impede a "normal" routine, once the patient has learned different techniques to manage this condition that suit their lifestyle, it can become easier to deal with.