Chronic Fatigue - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Chronic Fatigue - Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The number of people diagnosed with chronic fatigue is rising every day. Myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, is an illness with more questions than answers. It is a systemic and debilitating condition that uses up personal resources and negatively affects overall health. It is so influential that it can consume all motivation and isolate patients from nearly everything, even the people they love the most.

Those who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome say that the name doesn’t accurately describe their condition. They say that the reference doctors gave to their complex condition couldn’t be more simplistic. It is more than fatigue, it is exhaustion that flattens and immobilizes you. What’s more, it goes far beyond simple fatigue because it weakens the immune system itself. Patients also suffer from memory loss, low blood pressure, and irritability…

We’ve all felt tired and exhausted at some point. However, people who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome have a more complex and devastating situation. Theirs is a chronic illness of unknown origin. 

Another thing that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients have in common is that they feel forgotten by the medical and scientific community. They feel helpless because they don’t feel well, they can’t find proper treatment, and they don’t have the energy for daily activities. The inability to feel energetic and optimistic affects them in every aspect of their lives, but especially psychologically.

We still know very little about what causes chronic fatigueMany people definitely stigmatize it. It makes you less productive at work, you have to take days off on a regular basis, you aren’t able to enjoy your relationships or downtime…

tired man

Chronic fatigue – what exactly is it?

There’s fatigue, and there is fatigue. For example, we all know what it’s like to collapse onto the sofa after a day of work or a lot of physical exertion. A hot shower and a few hours of proper rest are enough to get back to normal. However, they are people that wake up exhausted. It doesn’t matter how much rest they get, their fatigue doesn’t go away. That’s because other symptoms are added to the fatigue.

These are:

  • Lack of energy.
  • Feeling like your body and limbs are heavy, and they weigh a lot.
  • Catching more colds and having more infections than usual. Weakened immune system.
  • Lack of motivation.
  • Concentration problems and trouble with memory.
  • Apathy and bad moods.
  • Lack of sexual desire.
  • Difficulty getting deep and restorative rest.
  • Muscular pain, frequent sore throats, joint paint, headaches
  • When you try to do a task the perceived effort seems extreme.
  • Most commonly seen in women between the ages of 40 and 50 years old.

Why am I suffering from chronic fatigue?

This is the first thing that a patient asks himself after a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis. Why me? Did I do something to bring on this chronic illness? Well, in the first place it is important to make clear that we still don’t know the causes of this debilitating disorder. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis.

  • Researchers speculate that it might be of viral origin. They believe that it first attacks and weakens the immune system. Nevertheless, scientists have not found any relationships between this condition and viral infections like Epstein Barr or Human Herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6).
  • Something that becomes clearer every day and scientists can prove is that some people are genetically predisposed to develop chronic fatigue.
  • On the other hand, some scientists hypothesize that it could be related to stress or even some kinds of depression. However, the strangest thing about that is that when patients receive treatment and get their stress or depression under control, the chronic fatigue doesn’t go away.

Also, although we aren’t sure about the definite cause of this illness, many patients experience periods free from symptoms. We aren’t exactly sure why that happens. Nevertheless, the symptoms return after a few weeks or months.

tired woman

Is there treatment for chronic fatigue?

Patients, as well as experts, caution that misdiagnosis happens frequently. Sometimes, chronic fatigue is a symptom of some other psychological illness such as bipolar disorder. Other times, certain pharmaceutical drugs have mentally and physically debilitating side effects.

Doctors must take many factors into account to give an accurate diagnosis. One important factor is that the patient has experienced more than 6 months of extreme exhaustion. This is accompanied by insomnia, muscle pain, and apathy.

  • Once the patient receives the diagnosis and their caregiver has ruled out any other disorders or problems, an improvement in diet is recommended over using pharmaceuticals.
  • Cut down on foods that cause inflammation. Increasing your intake of magnesium and fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 can be very helpful.
  • Also, as we are talking about a chronic illness, the main goal is to improve the quality of life of the patient as much as possible.
  • Complementary therapies such as mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy will help you to better face your day-to-day life.

Lastly, a good support group is extremely important. Having people to talk to and who will be there for you in difficult moments can be helpful. You can try other strategies as well, like yoga, swimming, dance classes, or even acupuncture. Anything that will allow you to recover the motivation and energy that this condition tends to cruelly snatch away from you.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.