Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is estimated to affect up to 180,000 Australians, and is diagnosed using internationally accepted criteria.
In February 2015, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was renamed Systemic Exertional Intolerance Disease (SEID) by the Institute of Medicine in the US. This new name captures the main characteristic expression of the condition, that exertion of any sort (physical, cognitive, or emotional)—can profoundly affect the individual’s ability to function. Core symptoms of CFS are:
- Profound fatigue lasting at least six months;
- Total exhaustion after even minor physical or mental exertion that patients sometimes describe as a “crash”;
- Unrefreshing sleep;
- Cognitive impairment (aka “brain fog”);
- A worsening of symptoms upon standing.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may still be misunderstood by some – it is not depression or a psychiatric illness. It is a real condition involving a range of bodily systems. However, a CFS diagnosis may lead to feelings of stigma in the patient due to the lack of a definite diagnostic biomarker.
There is no evidence that your personality or anything you have done has led to you having this chronic condition.
What does having CFS mean for my life?
The experience of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can vary greatly. Having CFS usually leads to difficulties in making plans, having goals, and generally leading the life you expected to live. Understandably this can lead to difficulties with emotions and coping.
Having CFS will require making changes to daily routines and lifestyle. It also requires learning new coping techniques and working through the grief and frustrations that come with having a chronic disease.
Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Negative investigation results and the suggestion of treatment options that are also used for depressive illness (eg anti-depressants and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aka CBT), do not mean your experience is fabricated, or that you are being treated for depression.
CBT currently has the largest amount of research carried out on its effectiveness in CFS and other chronic illnesses. It may help you to:
- Adjust to having a chronic illness;
- Reduce stress associated with the pain and discomfort of chronic fatigue;
- Identify factors that make your symptoms worse;
- Improve your sleep quality and increase your mental clarity.
Self-care strategies such as reducing stress, improving sleep habits, and pacing yourself from day to day, can be approached creatively to assist you to manage these aspects of living with an “invisible” chronic illness. This may also mean learning to do all this without feeling pressured or guilty!
Some people may benefit more from a different psychological therapy such as Solution Focused Therapy, or supportive relaxation techniques such as Emotional Freedom Technique to assist in the reduction of emotional distress associated with having CFS. Interventions are based on best available evidence, integrated with individual client characteristics, culture and preferences.
After correct diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist, therapy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be tailored to your needs. If you have any acute or worrying symptoms you should consult your doctor to ensure you have any necessary medical treatment before seeking psychological help.
Author: Mia Olsson, BA Psych (Hons), Dip Nurs, AMAPS.
Registered Psychologist Mia Olsson has had a broad interdisciplinary role in the health industry for over thirty years, including hospital-based nurse training, and an Honours Degree majoring in Psychology. She has a particular interest in assisting clients with depressive disorders, anxiety, acute and chronic complex trauma, and health related issues.
Please note: Mia is not taking bookings currently, however to make an appointment with a qualified clinician go to Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129
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The information on this topic page is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.
Note: Whilst EFT has achieved excellent results with some physical and emotional conditions, the technique should not be seen as a substitute for appropriate medical care and should always be used in conjunction with medical consultation and intervention for such conditions.