Been given a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), ME, or long Covid? Left feeling hopeless and like nobody understands what you are going through? Counselling for CFS can help you cope.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)?
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term condition affecting many body systems, such as the nervous and immune systems. With main symptoms of severe fatigue and exhaustion, CFS is sometimes used interchangeably with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) . Myalgia means muscle pain, and encephalomyelitis refers to an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.
The Action for M.E. charity estimates that over a quarter of a million people in the UK suffer from ME/CFS, with a survey showing over four times as many cases in women than men. 1
How do I know if I have chronic fatigue syndrome?
The most common symptom is severe fatigue that does not improve with rest or sleep. Other signs of chronic fatigue syndrome vary by individual and also fluctuate from week to day. These can include:
- general feeling of discomfort and lack of wellbeing (don't feel 'yourself')
- muscular pain, joint pain, severe headaches
- physical or mental exertion causing symptoms to worsen
- needing far more recovery time than normal after such exertion
- psychological difficulties such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and panic attacks
- ongoing sore throat and painful lymph nodes
- cognitive dysfunction such as memory and concentration issues
- stomach pain and other problems such as bloating, constipation, diarrhoea and nausea
- sleeping problems such as insomnia or restless sleep that means you are still tired
- sensitivity to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods
- strange skin sensations.
Less common symptoms can include dizziness, excessive sweating, balance problems, and difficulty controlling body temperature.
CFS vs depression
Chronic fatigue syndrome shares many core symptoms with depression, which can also cause exhaustion, sleeplessness, and poor concentration. And many people with CFS do suffer from mental health challenges including low moods and anxiety. So how can one know if one has CFS or depression?
It tends to be a case of what symptoms are most prominent. With depression, low moods are the prominent feature over exhaustion. With CFS, physical symptoms are more prominent and then trigger lower moods. There will be times when such symptoms diminish and you are able to enjoy everyday activities, but this can be matched by times when the symptoms severely affect your everyday life, health, and happiness.
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome
There is no specific test to diagnose chronic fatigue, so it is a question of looking at your medical history and symptoms and ruling out any other condition.
Nor is there currently a cure for CFS. Treatment is primarily aimed at managing symptoms and helping you adapt to the new rhythm of daily life that chronic fatigue brings. This can include lifestyle advice such as energy management and dietary changes, medicine to control symptoms like sleep issues, pain, or depression and anxiety, and then attending talk therapy.
How can counselling help with chronic fatigue syndrome?
From work and money, to relationships and family, chronic fatigue syndrome can affect all areas of your life. The feelings of distress, anger, fear, frustration, and powerlessness this can bring can trigger or worsen physical symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle of misery and ill health.
Counselling and psychotherapy breaks this cycle by tackling such complex and powerful emotions head on, and giving you effective coping strategies to change the ways you think, feel and behave. This can mean a greater sense of control over your condition and over flareups and relapses. Your therapist can also help you to remain on track with goals like lifestyle changes, and teach you relaxation techniques to cope better with pain and discomfort.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help those with ME/CFS manage their symptoms, improve their daily coping, and navigate the psychological and emotional problems that come hand-in-hand. 2
Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome at Harley Therapy™ London
The counsellors, psychologists, and psychotherapists at Harley TherapyTM understand that it each individual with a diagnosis of CFS, ME, or long Covid is different, and are able to create a bespoke treatment plan to support you. Our therapists are trained in CBT therapy but are also integrative, meaning they can combine several therapeutic approaches to best suit your specific needs. We also have several adult psychiatrists who can help with health reports and medication for CFS should they be required.
Do you offer talk therapy for CFS/ME in London?
Ready to start taking back control of your life despite chronic fatigue syndrome? We offer therapy for CFS in central London, at our clinics on Harley Street, near London Bridge and Liverpool Street. Our rooms at Liverpool Street are accessible to those with limited mobility. Online therapy is also an option if your fatigue limits your ability to leave the house. Call us now to discuss how we can help, or book your first appointment using our online booking form.
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Extra reading on chronic fatigue syndrome
The following books provide a helpful approach to living with chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Depression - How Connected Are They?
- Drained all the Time? The Psychological Causes of Exhaustion
- Recover Your Energy. Olive Hickman, 2009.
- Beating Chronic Fatigue - Your Step-by-Step Guide to Complete Recovery. Kristina Downing-Orr, 2010.
- Why me?. Alex Howard, 2009.
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