There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome and treatment is aimed at reducing and easing symptoms of the condition. The basic tenet of treatment is to diagnose the condition early so that symptoms can be relieved with treatment as soon as possible. The physical and psychological aspects of living with the condition are also addressed to try and improve the patient’s ability to cope with day-to-day living and the impacts of the illness.
Examples of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome include:
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
This is one of the most highly recommended therapies for chronic fatigue syndrome. CBT is a form of talking therapy that encourages a person to understand the interrelationship between any negative emotions and their behaviour. In this way, CBT can help patients alter any unhelpful ways of thinking that make their illness more difficult or distressing to cope with. The individual is encouraged to accept their diagnosis, reduce negative and challenging thoughts surrounding their condition and gain control of how they cope with their symptoms.
Graded exercise therapy or GET
This is an exercise programme that is specifically tailored to help people with chronic fatigue syndrome. The exercises are designed to increase stamina and physical endurance and ability. Aerobic exercises such as swimming or walking are commonly used to raise cardiovascular fitness by gradually increasing the duration and intensity of the exercises.
There are no specific medications that can cure chronic fatigue syndrome. However, pain relievers may be used to ease muscle pain, joint pain and headaches associated with the condition. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to both ease pain and reduce depressive symptoms.
Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome are often encouraged to set physical activity goals. Realistic goal setting can help improve self confidence as well increasing physical ability. In addition, patients are advised to avoid stress, alcohol, caffeine, simple sugars and foods they may be allergic to. Relaxation techniques such as meditation are advised and sleeping habits need to be regulated to prevent sleep disorders.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc