Are you constantly tired, no matter how much sleep you manage to get at night? Do physical and mental workouts leave you worn out for days at a time? Do you suffer from unexplained aches and pains that never seem to go away? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What is Chronic Fatigue?
Chronic Fatigue is—as its name implies—a condition that’s most prominently characterized by constant, profound fatigue. Other symptoms include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Cognitive impairment (confusion, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, etc.)
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Sore throat
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Anxiety, depression, or malaise
Chronic fatigue can be tricky to pinpoint, as it’s a disease of exclusion. Before a doctor can diagnose someone with chronic fatigue, they must rule out all other possible causes of the patient’s issues. Adrenal Insufficiency, Lyme Disease, clinical depression, and various diseases of specific organs (including the liver and kidneys) can all cause symptoms similar to Chronic Fatigue.
Now, most of us know at least one person who’s seemingly always tired because they don’t get enough sleep at night. But that’s NOT what Chronic Fatigue is. For people with this illness, it seems that there’s no amount of rest (or improvements to their sleep cycle) that will give them a “normal” energy level, and bouts of physical or mental exercise can leave them too exhausted to do much of anything for more than 24 hours. Chronic Fatigue sufferers often have trouble at their jobs or maintaining relationships with others; the condition robs them of their ability to concentrate and their will to socialize. And, unfortunately, many folks will write sufferers off as “lazy” or “whiney” instead of understanding that the person is struggling with a real illness—they don’t “just need to go to bed earlier.”
Unfortunately, there’s no easy “cure” for Chronic Fatigue; a person can’t just take antibiotics and expect to feel better in a week. Instead, most treatment plans primarily focus on relieving the symptoms of the disease.
- Antidepressants may alleviate the depression and anxiety that tends to go hand-in-hand with Chronic Fatigue. These medications may also help with mild, generalized pain.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help with managing acute pain. Lower doses are easily available over the counter in the form of aspirin and ibuprofen. A doctor might also prescribe something stronger, as well.
- Lifestyle changes (including journaling, the adoption of relaxation techniques like meditation or massage, and a specialized, nutrition-focused diet) can all promote better health overall.
Many people with chronic fatigue also find it helpful to seek out therapy or join support groups. This provides a supportive, understanding environment in which to discuss struggles and triumphs, as well as swap suggestions to help get a handle the condition.