Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that is characterised by extreme tiredness, which does not improve with rest. It is also commonly known as known as ME, which stands for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
The physical exhaustion experienced by sufferers can limit their ability to carry out normal daily activities and fuel symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.
Approximately 250,000 people in the UK have chronic fatigue syndrome. According to western medicine, there is no cure. At the same time, some people who have undertaken alternative medicine treatment, do claim full recovery (the author of this page being one such person). However, there is no “scientifically recognized” research to support such claims.
Dealing with the uncertainty of whether you will ever feel better is one of the primary challenges for people dealing with CFS.
Another troubling aspect for many chronic fatigue sufferers is that, your level well-being can change at any time, with no predictability. Some days you may feel quite capable and engaged in day to day life, without any apparent symptoms, then other times, for no obvious reason, you can experience an extreme energy slump that means even coping with the smallest task, can feel like a huge effort.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can have an adversely effect on many areas of a person’s life, making the every day elements of daily life such as work, family and friends difficult to manage and negotiate.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can affect anyone at any time in their life, but it is most commonly found among women, often occurring between the early 20’s to mid 40’s. Whilst symptoms vary from person to person, common elements amongst sufferers include; a general lack of well-being accompanied by tiredness, irritability, sensitivity, poor concentration and sleep disturbance.
Some of the most common symptoms of CFS are listed below. Not everyone will experience each of these symptoms and some people will have additional symptoms not listed here.
How Counselling and Psychotherapy Can Help
Counselling can help you cope with the physical symptoms and negotiate the psychological and emotion impact of CFS.
A chronic fatigue counsellor can show you how certain patterns of thinking and behaviour can trigger a cycle of low moods and feed an emotional and physical downward spiral. You can learn alternative ways of perceiving and responding to your experience which help you manage in a way that provides more relief during the difficult times and enhances your ability to get more enjoyment, comfort and ease in your journey with or through the illness.
For some people counselling for chronic fatigue syndrome can be focused on helping them adjust to daily life with the condition and managing their symptoms. Others find psychotherapy can provide support and useful psychological insights as they seek to cure their symptoms through alternative medicine routes. Some people find complementary therapies such as meditation, acupuncture, naturopathy and homeopathy can enhancing coping abilities and in some cases cure the physical symptoms altogether.
Those who take care of people with chronic fatigue syndrome can also benefit from counselling. Making sacrifices to care for a loved one can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and/or isolation, and counselling can provide helpful guidance and support on how to cope in the best way possible.
Here are some of the common issues CFS sufferers face that chronic fatigue syndrome counselling can help address:
Cognitive behavioural therapy for CFS is the most commonly recommend therapy intervention provided on the NHS because it is evidence based, time limited and therefore cost effective for NHS budgets. It can help you identify thoughts and behaviours that make the condition more difficult to manage and make you more aware of the stressors that can make your symptoms worse. A CBT therapist can show you strategies that can enable you to cope better in managing the impact of this syndrome on your life. You may also learn relaxation techniques that can prove helpful when you are tired, uncomfortable or stressed.
Because CFS affects different people in many different ways, an integrative psychotherapy approach to CFS can combine several therapies, including CBT and tailor the therapy to a person’s unique needs and learning style. This approach can be more comprehensive and produce more lasting results than a course of CBT therapy alone, because it can also address any historic roots which often tend to significantly undermine people’s ability to cope and negotiate through the illness, in the best way possible.
Mindfulness based cognitive therapy teaches people how to be present and not dwell on the past or obsess over the future. This approach helps people focus on what is happening right now as a means of reducing anxiety and stress, two problems that many CFS sufferers grapple with. It can also help with insomnia and symptoms of depression which can be experienced by people with chronic fatique syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome support groups can provide sufferers with the opportunity to connect with others who are dealing with similar problems and reduce feelings of aloneness. Group members share helpful coping strategies as well as practical information on resources such as medical care or financial assistance.
Visit the following links for further information on our locations that can support your CFS:
This page was written by Maggie Morrow (MSc, BSc, Adv Dip, UKCP) and medically reviewed in February 2022