What is Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)
ME/CFS is a complex neuroimmune illness, affecting the brain as well as immune, gastrointestinal, endocrine and cardiac bodily systems. ME/CFS occurs in 0.4-1% of people and is characterised by severe fatigue leading to restricted daily activities and interrupted relationships¹.
What causes ME/CFS?
The cause of ME/CFS is unknown. Research indicates disturbed hormonal and immune functioning, viral infections and low mitochondria function play a role¹‘². ME/CFS symptoms overlap with some medical conditions, which must be ruled-out prior to diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of ME/CFS?
The symptoms of ME/CFS include:
- Post-exertion exhaustion – rapid physical/cognitive fatigue following minimal cognitive, emotional or physical effort with recovery taking days, weeks or longer.
- Neurological impairments – difficulty processing information, head/body pain, disrupted sleep patterns, sensory sensitivity, muscle weakness.
- Immune and gastrointestinal impairments – recurrent or chronic flu-like symptoms or viral infections, nausea and irritable bowel issues.
- Energy Metabolism/Ion Transportation impairments – cardiovascular or respiratory difficulties and difficulty stabilising body temperature.
What are the physical and mental health treatment options for ME/CFS?
Collaboration between health professionals is important to treat and support persons with ME/CFS. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help manage ME/CFS, leading to improvements in fatigue, work functioning, and quality of life³. Sleep and pain medications can also be helpful in the short-term, and nutrition is important for managing gastrointestinal and metabolism issues².
How Seed Psychology can help you
We can support your recovery and wellbeing with a range of psychological treatment options, including:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to address unhelpful thought patterns that maintain fatigue and low mood, as well as helping you build acceptance of your illness and improve your coping strategies
- Graded Exercise Therapy builds awareness of energy levels, avoidance of overexertion for stabilising ME/CFS and staying within limits
- Sleep hygiene for disrupted sleep
- Memory aids for brain fog and memory problems
- Relaxation techniques for coping with stress from chronic illness.
Written by Lisa Miller, Psychologist at Seed Psychology
1. Carruthers B.M., & van de Sande M.I. (2012). Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – Adult & Paediatric: International Consensus Primer for Medical Practitioners. Available at: http://sacfs.asn.au/download/me_international_consensus_primer_for_medical_practitioners.pdf
2. Teitelbaum, J. (2013). The fatigue and fibromyalgia solution: The essential guide to overcoming chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, made easy. New York, Penguin Group
3. Whiting et al., (2001). Interventions for the treatment and management of chronic fatigue syndrome: a systematic review. Journal of American Medical Association, 286, 11, 1360-1368.