Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), sometimes known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), is a long term health condition that affects approximately 1,500 people across Teesside.

Individuals experience a variety of fluctuating symptoms that can have a disabling impact on everyday life.  Symptoms can be physical and cognitive.

Physical symptoms may include:

  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Poor temperature control
  • Difficulties with digestion

Cognitive symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor memory
  • Word finding difficulties
  • Difficulty processing and understanding information
  • Forgetting how to complete simple tasks
  • Misjudging risks and sense of safety

As a consequence of living with these symptoms and their impact on life, it is not uncommon for individuals to also experience emotional difficulties.  People with CFS/ME are particularly vulnerable to stress and low mood.  Feeling a sense of loss of control and frustration is common.

Symptoms can affect individuals to varying degrees

  • Individuals with mild CFS/ME experience symptoms, but they are able to enjoy a variety of activities with minimal difficulty. They are able to manage full or part time employment / education.  They are able to balance household / family activities, and social activities with employment, though this may need to be carefully managed.
  • Individuals with moderate CFS/ME need help and support to complete everyday activities. They are unable to manage employment / education, but are able to complete household / family activities to varying degrees.  They need assistance with activities outside of the home, e.g. shopping or socialising, which may also require careful planning to avoid exacerbating symptoms.
  • Individuals with severe CFS/ME need help with all activities of daily living. This help may be provided by family members and/or carers. They are likely to be housebound and in some cases bedbound.  They are able to contribute to their care, but may reserve their energy to complete enjoyable activities such as reading or listening to music.

What causes CFS/ME?

Currently there is no known cause for CFS/ME.  Research has identified a number of possible factors including dysfunction of; the endocrine system, autonomic nervous system, and immune system.  A number of research projects continue to be conducted nationally and internationally.

There is however a relatively specific pattern of events seen in the development of CFS/ME, along with common predisposing factors.

Model of CFS/ME

How is CFS treated?

As the cause of CFS/ME remains unknown there is no medical treatment or cure for the condition.  Instead individuals are offered therapeutic rehabilitation to help manage symptoms and promote well-being.  Research recommends a combination of therapeutic approaches including; cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), graded exercise therapy (GET), and activity (lifestyle) management.

Will I get better?

Many people with CFS/ME live positive and fulfilling lives.  How well individuals progress depends on many factors, eg, how able they are to make changes to their behaviours, age, financial demands, family responsibilities, severity of symptoms, emotional resilience, and the presence of other health conditions.

CFS/ME is a long term health condition and whilst some individuals are able to return to everyday activities, they will remain vulnerable to setbacks and relapses.  Therefore individuals will need to continue implementing management strategies and be mindful of symptoms.

More information on the condition can be found at: