Not Psychosomatic, Your Exhaustive Tiredness Might Be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Disguise

Not Psychosomatic, Your Exhaustive Tiredness Might Be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Disguise

I never took Shweta seriously when she would look as if she is ready to drop after performing as simple a task as creating a presentation early morning at the office. Her face would tell me she had a good sleep last night, but still, she would always say she is tired and exhausted. We, at the office, would say that it was all in her head. However, things never got any better with Shweta, as she would take off from work for days which made way for the extinction of her existence. It was only after my close aunt got diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, that I understood that Shweta was definitely not a psychosomatic patient.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS is a disease that many people assume to be a condition of the mind. As per research, CFS also known by the name, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ME, is an immunological dysfunction, and definitely not a psychosomatic disorder as commonly thought.

Fact Check: A good definition of psychosomatic disorder

Suzanne O’Sullivan, a doctor at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London says in her book, “Psychosomatic disorders are physical symptoms that mask emotional distress”.

Earlier, the awareness was so little about CFS that patients have even been rejected a proper diagnosis. It was only after various studies and researches that CFS was regarded as a disease and not just any issue of the mind.

Fact Check: A new name for CFS: Systemic exertion intolerance disease, or SEID.

Recently, CFS got itself a new name by 15-member experts of the Institute of Medicine. According to them, the name CFS trivialised the seriousness of the illness.

Women and CFS

Research says that more than 70% of the people affected by fatigue disorder are women. Most of these women because of CFS awareness deficit never walk up to a clinic to get themselves diagnosed. They prefer to believe after receiving random advice from their equally unaware friends that the reason behind their exhaustive tiredness is either stress or any psychological disorder.

Why Are Women Most Affected by CFS?

Women during their reproductive years happen to produce huge amounts of the hormone – oestrogen than normal. The polymorphism of the hormone occurs during this phase which eventually gives rise to higher levels of semiquinones and quinones. These react back and forth and ultimately generate superoxide ions, which produce additional oxidative stress in women. A recent research hypothesis claimed that oxidative stress exhausts glutathione, which leads to the onset of CFS in these women.

The most common symptoms of CFS are –

1. Joint pain, which involves swelling and redness

2. Short Term memory loss

3. Dizziness

4. Headaches

5. Non-restorative sleep

6. Depression

7. Stress, anxiety, nausea

8. Decrease in stamina

The reason why people make the mistake of not detecting the disease early is because of the symptoms mentioned above are quite similar to other psychological disorders.

Researchers’ Take on CFS as a Disease

Maureen Hanson, Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell says on their study about CFS published in the journal Microbiome, “Our detection of a biological abnormality provides further evidence against the ridiculous concept that the disease is psychological in origin.”

It is; therefore, better to get yourself diagnosed in case you found these symptoms recurring even after 6 months. If you cannot find the actual reason behind your extreme tiredness, then it is most likely that you are diagnosed with CFS/ME.

Shweta always used to complain about muscle ache, even though she never exhausted herself with extra work or pressure. Her condition became so extreme that at one point she would get bedridden for days, losing the ability to move her body by even an inch. None the less, unable to find a cure to her ailment, she would always remain depressed upon her whole life changing in a year’s time.

There is no definite cure for CFS, but supportive therapies involving medications and behavioural exercise workshops, and strict routines have helped many women overcome the problems of pain, anxiety, and depression with time.

CFS Condition in India

“Although there are no clear statistics available in India, I see a lot of people affected with the chronic fatigue syndrome, being tired all the time. But hardly anyone even considers doing something about the ‘tiredness’,” says Navneet Kaur, senior consultant, internal medicine, Nova Specialty Hospitals, New Delhi.

“You are likely to have CFS if suddenly you feel inexplicably tired and exhausted; this fatigue does not ease off even after a rest, the patient experiences pain in the muscles, joints or head, has a thumping heart (palpitations), loses concentration and faces short-term memory loss, even though there is no significant change in their lifestyle,” says Dr Kaur.

“The symptoms vary from mild (you feel tired on some days), moderate (reduced mobility and disturbed sleep pattern), to severe (most daily tasks are affected and most of the time is spent in bed),” she adds.

Neelanjana Singh, the chief clinical nutritionist, PSRI Hospital, New Delhi, says, “A high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate diet, and inclusion of antioxidants and good fats like omega 3 are the dietary recommendations during CFS disorder”.

Rules Necessary for Women:

It is best not to look at the news feed of your mobile for at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Doctors recommend soothing the mind by listening to music or by reading a book just before sleeping off is a good way to keep away the stress.

Like Shweta, many women do not understand the reason behind their tiredness at first. They think it is in their mind and because of the pseudo-intellectual advice from people around, they are left misguided. Instead of making silly assumptions about your health, it is always better to ask someone who knows the condition too well.  


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