Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating condition that many people have to live with. It affects as many as 2.5 million Americans, and typically manifests around the age of 33. It is characterized by extreme unexplainable fatigue that does not ease even with rest.
CFS is a disorder that has both profound physical and psychological effects, the reasons for which haven’t been identified yet. However, there have been theories as to the causes of CFS ranging from viral infections to stress. If you remember, Balance Wellness previously illustrated how chronic stress can lead to a whole host of other conditions including chronic fatigue. The tricky thing about it is that suffering from CFS is another stressor, which only adds to the perceived causes of the disorder.
Since the underlying cause of CFS is unknown, it is diagnosed by its physical and psychological set of symptoms. A person with CFS can experience prolonged joint and muscle pain and frequent headaches. The most draining manifestation of CFS is the fatigue itself which renders some patients incapable of getting out of bed. Some people also experience sudden palpitations and shortness of breath with the slightest physical effort.
Being bedridden for weeks or months at a time takes away from physical activity, causing drastic weight fluctuations. In effect, these can cause damage to various organ systems of the body such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems.
CFS seeps into every aspect of life because it can further damage someone’s psychological wellbeing. Although it is not representative of all cases, other patients go through cycles of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. CFS is an extremely isolating disorder because of the lack of energy to socialize and do the things you used to love doing.
Even mundane tasks start to be missed by people suffering with CFS. UK-based writer Hayley Green narrated how driving is now impossible with the illness affecting her perception and concentration. And it’s not just her ability to control a car that’s been taken away but the simple act of traveling in a vehicle is uncomfortable due to the motion sickness triggered by her condition.
What to do about it
Although there is no cure for CFS, there are ways to make it manageable. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the closest option to a cure. It focuses on changing your perseption about your illness and help you be more in control of your symptoms. There is no magic pill that can make CFS go away but traditional medicine can target each specific symptom such as painkillers for headaches or anti-depressants for improving mental health.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can also be beneficial in treating CFS symptoms. An NCBI study on the efficacy of TCM highlighted some examples including a herbal tonic that improves cognitive function and prescription medicine for regulating qi which helped patients resume their normal lives.
In the US, people with extreme symptoms of CFS can actually qualify for protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers are required to be more accommodating to their employees who are diagnosed with the disorder, considering that some of the symptoms may take them out of work for long periods of time. There are also federal mandates that include avoiding/reducing fatigue as a consideration. One involves truckers, who are prone to developing CFS, particularly the Department of Transportation’s rule on restricting the maximum workweek to 70 hours from 82 hours. High-end technology helps with the implementation of this rule with electronic logging devices now a requirement for commercial truck fleets. In an article by Verizon Connect titled ‘Truck Tracking’ they elaborate on how fleet tracking devices monitor driving hours to ensure that drivers are not going over the limit as well as observing safe driving practices at all times. Staying on top of truckers’ work hours encourages them to be more efficient and in turn, not succumb to stress, one of the potential risks that could lead to CFS.
From the outside looking in, it’s not hard to imagine how difficult it is to live a life with chronic fatigue syndrome. Hopefully, the science surrounding CFS will only progress and public laws will be widely implemented to cover all industries, helping more people in need to deal with their disorder.
Exclusively written for Balanceatx.com
By: Tilly Clover