How to Manage Your Chronic Fatigue Symptoms

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Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disorder characterised by extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest or sleep. People with chronic fatigue syndrome feel constantly physically and mentally drained. There are a number of other symptoms in addition to the typical fatigue, such as concentration difficulties and frequent headaches. These symptoms can vary in terms of their frequency and severity from person to person. 

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, or you are concerned about having symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed with CFS, this blog will provide some guidance. We will provide an overview of CFS, explore some of the most common symptoms and discuss how these symptoms can be managed with professional support. 

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome is sometimes referred to as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which means pain in the muscles, and inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. The condition is primarily characterised by intense fatigue, but since fatigue can be a symptom of various other medical conditions, getting to a CFS diagnosis can be difficult. Although there may be symptoms that overlap with other disorders, you can  seek a professional diagnosis to help you to clarify where your symptoms are stemming from. This can inform you, and the medical professional, on the best course of treatment.

CFS can affect children as well as adults, and is not limited by gender or ethnicity. It is a long-term illness, and when left untreated, can have a serious impact on a person’s day-to-day life.  

Key symptoms of CFS/ME

The primary physical symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:

  • Intense fatigue
  • Mild to severe memory problems
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Frequent headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • A sore throat
  • Muscle and joint pain that has not been caused by exercise 
  • Unrefreshing sleep

Other symptoms that can be experienced by people with ME/CFS include dizzy spells, flu-like symptoms and heart palpitations, however these symptoms are less common. Some people may also experience post-exertional malaise (PEM) which is the gradual worsening of these symptoms over time. 

What causes CFS/ME?

When it comes to the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome, unfortunately there is no concrete answer. However, there are a number of theories about what may be behind CFS. 

  • A weak immune system: There is some evidence that CFS sufferers have an impaired immune system, causing weaknesses that lead to CFS symptoms. However, the evidence for the theory is not conclusive.
  • Viral infections: Sometimes, people with viral infections (for example, glandular fever) can go on to develop CFS. However, this does not happen in every case of a virus, therefore it is unlikely to be a single or direct cause of CFS.
  • Genes: The condition is more common amongst families, suggesting there is likely to be a genetic cause of CFS that is inherited. 
  • Hormonal imbalance: Hormone levels in people with ME/CFS can sometimes be ‘abnormal’, so there is speculation as to whether this is a cause of the condition. 

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed?

To diagnose a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome, healthcare providers will first assess the frequency and severity of the symptoms, and determine whether the symptoms can be explained by any other medical condition. 

Since there is no single test that can diagnose chronic fatigue, this process of elimination is what informs a CFS diagnosis. Therefore, the patient is likely going to be asked to carry out various medical tests such as blood pressure monitoring to eliminate the possibility that the symptoms can be explained by another condition. 

Managing Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

Managing the symptoms of chronic fatigue will in most cases require support from a medical professional. At Psymplicity Healthcare, our experts can suggest several helpful therapies to support you. Depending on your CFS symptoms, these therapies may include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): This therapy can help you identify factors that exacerbate fatigue and other CFS symptoms. With CBT, you can learn how to adapt your day-to-day activities to manage your CFS better, and it can help you to reframe any negative beliefs around your condition. 
  • Graded exercise therapy (GET): An exercise programme can help you adjust to carrying out appropriate physical activity. Vigorous aerobic exercise is often prescribed for other chronic conditions, but with CFS, a structured programme aimed at gradually raising your heart rate is more effective. 

While these are the most common therapeutic techniques used for people with ME/CFS, depending on your condition, alternative therapies may be suggested by health professionals.

If you would like to find out whether you should get a chronic fatigue diagnosis, or you need support managing your CFS symptoms, get in touch with our specialists at Psymplicity Healthcare who can provide you with a personalised treatment plan.

Mavish Sikander

Mavish Sikander

Mavish is a BABCP Accredited CBT and EMDR Therapist and CBT Clinical Lead at Psymplicity.

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