• Family health care, 
including diagnosis 
and treatment of major 
and minor illness
    Family health care, including diagnosis and treatment of major and minor illness
  • Family health care, 
including diagnosis 
and treatment of major 
and minor illness
    Family health care, including diagnosis and treatment of major and minor illness

What you need to know about chronic fatigue

March 09th, 2016

What you need to know about chronic fatigue

Nearly 20 percent of people in the US who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) have not even been diagnosed - which means you could be in the other 80 percent who are in the dark without a name for the fatigue and sundry other symptoms that plague them.

CFS, though, is still as mysterious to the medical world as it is to many who suffer its effects. All that is known is about this medical condition is that it manifests itself as chronic, unexplainable tiredness that goes on for six or more months, impedes every day activities and lowers a person’s quality of life. Some researchers suspect that the manifestation of CFS could be a result of a number of things including: Virus or infection, genetics, brain abnormalities, hypersensitive immune system, psychiatric or emotional conditions (especially related to childhood trauma such as sexual or emotional abuse), and/or stress-related hormone imbalances.

Although CFS has affected both sexes at all ages, there is more of a change that girls or women would be diagnosed, and more often those women are aged 50 and older.

But what makes this condition even more baffling, and frustrating for the person afflicted, is that fatigue is not the only symptom. More often than not CFS is coupled with fibromyalgia, leading many researchers to believe that these two seemingly separate illnesses are rather different manifestations of the same illness. But that is still unknown. CFS is also commonly linked to depression.

While there is no exact known course for medical intervention to help heal those with this illness, there are options available for people with CFS to help manage their condition(s), says David Plunkett, manager of integrated behavioral health at Sun Life Family Health Center.

“It can be tough when working with someone with this condition, because it is so unpredictable,” Plunkett said. But some of the common areas medical professionals help work with sufferers of CFD are eating a healthy diet, sleep management, and gradually managing an exercise regimen. These treatments are often implemented alongside the prescription for antidepressants and other medications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another valuable healing system to help a person with CFS get back in control of his or her life. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “The primary goals of CBT are to change any distorted perceptions patients have of the world and of themselves, so they can change their behavior accordingly.”

That means changing a patient’s belief about themselves, about their life, the condition of their health, and find ways to assist the patient in changing those negative, self-defeating beliefs into hope and positive thoughts and actions. This is especially important for CFS patients who are also depressed.

“When I work with patients with CFS, much of our conversation is around setting schedules,” Plunkett explains. “Such as trying to be consistent with a sleep pattern, as well as scheduling activities. Finding a hobby or activity which has a beginning and an end can help the patient feel productive.” 

Plunkett said that he also suggests that his patients keep a journal, “in an effort to track patterns.” 

“This can provide valuable insight into certain times of day which can be more difficult than others, so planning everyday tasks like work, socializing, or exercise, can be easier. Everything I do with my patients is centered around helping them to set small goals for positive change, which can motivate them and give them hope for the future.”

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be living with chronic fatigue, consult your doctor and hopefully get the answers you are seeking. Sun Life also offers behavioral health and cognitive behavioral therapy for patients. 

Visit us at www.sunlifefamilyhealth.org, or call us at (520) 836-3446.

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