Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) treatment
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), sometimes given the name myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalomyelopathy (ME), is a debilitating long-term disorder, with its most prominent symptom being extreme tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest.
At Priory, we understand that living with CFS can prevent you from living your life to the full. This is why our nationwide network of hospitals and wellbeing centres offer personalised treatment plans including talking therapy, structured exercise programmes and in some cases, medication, to help reduce symptoms of CFS, helping you to become better able to carry out your daily activities.
Being diagnosed with CFS
You may be diagnosed with CFS if there is no underlying condition which may explain why you often feel fatigued, with medical professionals including your GP only able to rule out other possible causes. There is currently no conclusive test to determine whether you have CFS which can make it a difficult illness to diagnose.
If you have been diagnosed with CFS, you may find that increased exercise makes common symptoms such as muscle or joint pain and sleep problems even worse, while the severity of these symptoms tends to vary each day, or even throughout the day, even when you feel as though you aren’t moving or exercising excessively.
Many people with CFS have to accommodate the illness into their lives, so you may find that you have to make adjustments to your lifestyle in order to feel relief from symptoms. The disorder can also impact your mental and emotional health, even affecting your confidence when you feel as though you cannot function as you would like to in order to achieve personal goals and ambitions.
It is important to remember that with the correct treatment, CFS can improve over time, although you may experience fluctuating extremes of symptoms becoming better or worse during certain periods.
Treatment for CFS
The main aim of treatment for CFS is to relieve the symptoms that are causing you issues in your day-to-day life, and which may be affecting your ability to work or even carry out general tasks, such is the overwhelming feeling of tiredness and other physical symptoms of the illness.
While there is currently no cure for CFS, treating the associated symptoms of the illness, which may include other mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, can help you more easily cope with problems faced when you have the condition. Medication including antidepressants can help combat common symptoms of CFS-induced depression, while sleep aids and pain-reducing medication may be recommended for a period of time, should lifestyle changes not improve your symptoms.
However, a combination of talking and physical therapies is most often used at Priory to treat and alleviate symptoms of CFS, including:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Talking with an experienced therapist at Priory can help you understand the issues associated with CFS and how this impacts your life, with the primary aim of CBT for CFS being to reduce negative thoughts and exaggerated focus on related symptoms of the illness.
Your therapist will help to instil a more positive outlook on your condition and its long-term impact on your daily life, with its structured, problem-solving approach helping you manage your mood more effectively.
While professional medical treatment is highly recommended when looking to improve symptoms of CFS, making significant adjustments to your everyday life can also help you manage the condition day-to-day, which may prevent the extremes of symptoms from occurring over time.
Alterations you can make to your lifestyle which can help when living with CFS include:
- Avoid emotional and physical stress
- Reduce or remove caffeine from your diet to help you sleep
- Have a regular sleep routine and time you go to bed/wake
- Take time out to relax and do things you enjoy each day
- Pace yourself during activities requiring exertion to avoid episodes of fatigue
This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Ed Burns (MBChB, MRCPsych, MSc) in August 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in August 2020. To view all Priory CFS specialists, please click here.