M.E. & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
M.E./CFS: Therapy, Counselling and CBT in St Albans/Hertfordshire and Online
Conditions characterised by fatigue, such as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.)/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia, can significantly impact individuals' lives, often becoming overwhelming. If you are dealing with these conditions, I offer support to help you effectively manage your symptoms, find relief, and regain your ability to engage in activities you used to enjoy. Whether you prefer in-person sessions in St Albans/Hertfordshire or online therapy, don't hesitate to reach out for M.E. and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome treatment. Contact me today to begin your journey towards improved well-being.
Taking care of yourself is crucial when living with M.E./CFS. Your body is exerting extra effort just to function, making it challenging to maintain your previous level of activity. Just as you would prioritise self-care and listen to your body if you had another physical health condition like arthritis or cardiac problems, the same principle applies to M.E./CFS. With the therapy for M.E./CFS I provide, I can assist you in achieving this. Together, we can focus on enhancing your overall well-being, providing you with the best possible opportunity for recovery.
Currently, there is no medical cure for M.E./CFS. The condition involves complex bodily systems, and its symptoms affect various aspects of your life. To address M.E./CFS comprehensively, it requires a multi-faceted approach, which is precisely what I can offer.
What is M.E./CFS?
M.E./CFS is a physical health condition that can be challenging to comprehend, even for those who are living with it. This is partly due to its complex and unpredictable nature, as symptoms can fluctuate without a clear cause. The severity of M.E./CFS can vary, ranging from mild to severe. It affects every system in the body and manifests through a combination of symptoms, which may include:
Cognitive difficulties, often referred to as "brain fog"
Post-exertional malaise (feeling worse after physical or mental exertion)
Recurrent sore throat and swollen glands
Impaired temperature regulation
Sleep problems and unrefreshing sleep
Sensitivities to certain foods, medications, light, sound, and touch
Cognitive impairments, such as poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and reduced attention span
If you have M.E./CFS, you may experience some or all of these symptoms. However, this list is not exhaustive, as there may be other symptoms specific to your individual experience.
There has been considerable debate surrounding the distinction between M.E. and CFS. Additionally, other terms have been used to describe M.E/CFS, such as:
Post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVFS)
Chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)
Many individuals, including healthcare professionals in the NHS, often use the terms M.E. and CFS interchangeably due to the significant overlap in symptoms. Hence, for the purpose of this discussion, the term M.E./CFS will be used. It is worth noting that fibromyalgia, another fatigue condition, shares many similarities with M.E./CFS. Therefore, much of the information discussed below is also relevant for individuals struggling with fibromyalgia.
What Causes M.E./CFS?
Research and clinical experience suggest that several factors contribute to the development and maintenance of M.E./CFS. It may be that all of these factors resonate with you or just some.
Certain factors are commonly experienced by individuals with M.E./CFS, which are believed to place additional strain on the body and brain, making them vulnerable to developing the condition later in life.
Studies indicate that approximately 30% of individuals who have had glandular fever (caused by the Epstein-Barr virus) go on to develop M.E./CFS. This suggests a causal role of viruses. It is possible for individuals to have had glandular fever several years prior to the onset of M.E./CFS, without even realising it. Blood tests can detect antibodies that indicate past exposure to the virus.
There are common personality traits observed in individuals with M.E./CFS. Resting the mind and body is crucial for restoration and rejuvenation. However, many individuals with M.E./CFS possess personality traits that contribute to significant strain on their brain and body, with minimal rest.
For instance, perfectionism is often seen among individuals with M.E./CFS. They set high standards in various areas of life, pushing themselves relentlessly and experiencing heightened stress levels due to self-imposed pressure. Another common trait is an inclination to prioritise others' needs over their own, neglecting personal downtime. The pressure to please others can generate stress and foster resentment.
The following factors are commonly experienced prior to the onset of M.E./CFS, further adding strain to the brain and body and triggering the condition.
Some individuals may have undergone surgery and/or experienced one or more viruses before the onset of M.E./CFS. Both surgical procedures and viral infections impose strain on the immune system.
High Stress Levels
Many individuals report high stress levels around the time of M.E./CFS onset. This could be attributed to a particularly stressful event or a cumulative effect of multiple stressful events, where the brain and body were overworked without sufficient rest. Stressors may include heavy workloads, academic pressures, relationship difficulties, or even positive life events such as moving house or getting married. It is important to emphasise that mentioning stress levels does not imply that M.E./CFS is in your head (a misconception individuals with M.E./CFS often encounter). Physical symptoms in M.E./CFS are undeniably real and have a physiological basis. Stress is believed to trigger M.E./CFS in many cases by placing additional strain on the brain and body, leading to physiological changes that manifest as M.E./CFS symptoms.
Why can these Triggering Factors Lead to the Onset of M.E./CFS?
As detailed earlier, prior to the onset of M.E./CFS, there seems to be a considerable amount of strain on the brain and body. This strain can arise from factors such as viral infections, excessive exertion, high levels of stress, and inadequate rest, either individually or in combination. During these periods, our bodily systems work diligently to enable the brain and body to function optimally, meet the demands placed upon them, and provide protection.
An analogy can be drawn to an electrical system. In an electrical system, when there is a sudden surge of electricity, the fuse blows as a safety measure to safeguard the system. Similarly, when the brain and body experience a significant surge in demand, various changes occur within the body, and fatigue ensues as a protective mechanism. Fatigue compels you to pause, cease activities, and slow down, providing an opportunity for the body to recover and prevent further strain.
Physiology Underlying M.E./CFS
Unfortunately, M.E./CFS has received inadequate attention in terms of research on its underlying physiology. Fortunately, there seems to be a gradual increase in research efforts, although it could be argued that more is still needed. Studies indicate that there is dysregulation observed in various bodily systems, including the immune system, autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, muscular system, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis). Furthermore, a prominent theory regarding the cause of M.E./CFS involves dysfunction in mitochondria, the cellular structures responsible for energy production. Additionally, the role and functioning of genes are believed to contribute to the condition.
The emerging theories and research surrounding the physiological aspects of M.E./CFS can be daunting and perplexing, especially considering the involvement of multiple body systems. The complexity of M.E./CFS physiology is evident, as various bodily systems are implicated and likely interact with one another. Understanding the intricate interactions between these systems can be overwhelming, adding to the complexity of the condition.
Common Struggles Faced by People with M.E./CFS
These are common challenges experienced by individuals with M.E./CFS. It is possible that you can relate to all or some of these struggles.
Others’ Lack of Understanding
Unfortunately, many people with M.E./CFS encounter a lack of understanding from friends, family, and even medical professionals. It can be disheartening to face negative judgments and disbelief about the existence of your condition, with some suggesting that it is purely psychological. Despite your attempts to explain, you may find that others fail to grasp the nature of M.E./CFS. It may have taken a long time to receive a diagnosis, possibly due to medical professionals lacking knowledge or attributing symptoms to depression or anxiety.
Not Being Able to Do What I Used to
The symptoms of M.E./CFS often lead to disruptions in daily routines and roles. Working less or stopping altogether, reduced socialisation, and limitations in engaging in hobbies become common due to the physical impact. Accepting the inability to perform as before and fulfill previous roles can be challenging. Life may feel narrower and limited to necessary tasks rather than enjoyable pursuits. Adjustments to activities become necessary. Resisting the condition and pushing oneself to previous levels of activity can worsen symptoms immediately or have delayed effects.
Its Unpredictable Nature
M.E./CFS symptoms tend to fluctuate, and triggers may be identifiable, such as over-exertion or a viral illness. However, there are also times when symptoms flare up without any clear trigger. Understanding the tolerable level of activity without exacerbating symptoms becomes difficult, reducing the sense of control over the condition and adding to frustrations.
It can be a Scary Condition
The wide range of unpleasant and sometimes severe symptoms can create fear and anxiety. Even after thorough investigations ruling out other causes, individuals with M.E./CFS may still fear an unidentified underlying condition. Seeking further investigations privately may be an option for some. Additionally, the fear of symptom relapse may persist even if symptoms improve slightly, leading to a cautious approach to activities.
I’ve Tried Lots of Different Therapies
In their quest for symptom relief, individuals with M.E./CFS often explore different therapies, such as Reiki, B12 injections, hypnotherapy, and more. While some may have experienced temporary benefits, others may have found no improvement at all. The pursuit of these therapies may have consumed significant time, energy, and financial resources, resulting in increased frustration and disappointment.
What does Psychological Therapy for M.E./CFS involve?
During the initial stages of therapy, we will focus on developing a comprehensive understanding of how your M.E./CFS originated and is sustained. Together, we will delve into the intricacies of the physiological aspects underlying M.E./CFS, which will serve as a guide for our therapeutic approach and target areas for recovery.
You will be introduced to a range of practical and psychological coping strategies that have been extensively researched and proven effective. These strategies encompass addressing thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns to better manage your symptoms. Additionally, many individuals find it beneficial to utilise the therapeutic space to explore and process the impact of M.E./CFS and the various challenges they have encountered. This will be done within a warm, supportive, and non-judgmental environment.
My primary objective is to collaborate on finding ways to enhance your physical and emotional well-being, which in turn can positively influence the bodily systems affected by M.E./CFS. This collaborative effort aims to reduce symptoms and enhance your overall quality of life. The therapy will be tailored to meet your individual needs, ensuring it aligns with your specific circumstances and requirements.
What are the Benefits of Psychological Therapy for M.E./CFS?
Extensive research demonstrates the potential benefits of Psychological Therapy for individuals with M.E./CFS. I have worked with numerous individuals who have reported substantial improvements after undergoing therapy. These outcomes are supported by the data obtained through pre- and post-therapy assessments conducted with individuals affected by M.E./CFS. Noteworthy improvements are often observed in the following areas:
Reduction in M.E./CFS symptoms, including fatigue, pain, and cognitive difficulties (brain fog)
Increased energy levels
Enhanced physical functioning
Improved overall quality of life
Increased engagement in social activities
Higher levels of activity and participation
Enhanced confidence in managing symptoms
Improved emotional well-being
Prevention of further deterioration in physical and emotional well-being and functional abilities
These positive outcomes highlight the potential of Psychological Therapy to significantly improve the lives of individuals with M.E./CFS by addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of their condition.
How Long Does it Take Until I See Improvements/How Long Does Therapy Last?
While some individuals may experience significant improvements in around ten sessions of Psychological Therapy, it can be beneficial to extend therapy beyond this timeframe and have up to approximately fourteen sessions in total for several reasons. Firstly, it takes time for the underlying bodily systems involved in M.E./CFS to respond to the positive changes made during therapy. Therefore, allowing for a longer duration of therapy ensures that these systems have sufficient time to adapt and show improvement. Secondly, there are numerous strategies and techniques introduced during therapy to help manage M.E./CFS, and rushing through these processes may not be in your best interest. Allowing for a slightly longer therapy period enables a more comprehensive exploration and implementation of these strategies, maximising their effectiveness in managing your condition.
Helpful M.E./CFS resources:
If you would like therapy for M.E./CFS in St Albans/Hertfordshire or online please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the webform below.
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