Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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:

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.