Is it time to rethink our approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & M.E.?

The number of people in the UK suffering from CFS/ME is rapidly increasing. Each year around 14,000 people are diagnosed with the condition. Despite its growing prevalence, we still know very little about CFS/ME and there is no medically known cause or cure.

However, awareness is growing, and more people are becoming away of the need to take action to help those with CFS/ME. For example, last Thursday (21 June 2018), ME/CFS was debated in Parliament. During that debate, it was agreed that more funding needs to be put into investigating diagnosis, analysis and finding a cure to ME/CFS.

Whilst this is a fantastic step forwards for the CFS & ME community, I think it is time for us all to seriously consider whether we need to adopt a new approach to how to we conceive of and treat this condition.

The trouble with the current western approach is that we see human beings as a physical machine. When something goes wrong, we try to fix or replace that part. But, as we are beginning to find, that does not always work.

CFS & M.E. are one such case in point. If you speak with people who have recovered from it, they very often describe it as ‘extreme burnout’ or ‘a multi-system burnout’. To recover, they have had to not only allow their bodies to rest, restore and rebuild, but have also had to learn to live in a more sustainable way. Without sustainability they run the risk of living in a perpetual boom and bust cycle, managing to get by but never truly recovering. 

If we conceive CFS/ME as extreme burnout, then it makes looking at diagnosis, analysis and treatment (or ‘cure’) very different. Rather than the condition being a great mystery, it is in fact entirely logical.

What if instead of searching for a one size fits all cure, we take a more holistic approach. If it is extreme burnout, then surely what those who have it need to initially give their bodies time to recover. Then (and this is the hard part), they need to adapt their life so that it is more sustainable and balanced.

Yes, I know this greatly over simplifies things. But why can’t recovery be simple. I’m not saying it is easy. Living in a sustainable and balanced way isn’t in fashion, but as more and more people suffer from this approach to life things will gradually have to change.

If this is the root of the condition, then it means we already have the potential to help everyone who is currently living with it without investing millions in searching for a cure than we may never find. It also means, we need to act now to stop thousands more people drive themselves to getting CFS/ME.

What do you think? Is it time to re-think our approach to CFS/ME?

Laura Mary Buchanan
Laura Buchanan

Laura is a Psychologist, Researcher, and Meditation Teacher. She has a Masters Degree in Psychological Studies and has been researching the role of Self Development in the recovery process from Chronic Fatigue. She is a registered teacher with the British School of Meditation and runs weekly meditation classes on Thursday evenings. She also runs a monthly support group for CFS/ME as well as offering talks & series of workshops to find out more about what CFS/ME actually is and how you can start regaining your health.


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  • Claire Bushell Claire Bushell says:

    Thanks for posting about this Laura. You are such a beacon of inspiration, hope and knowledge in this area that has often been so misunderstood and neglected. I hope that the support groups and workshops/talks that you’re now offering help more people come to a better understanding of this condition and how it’s possible to work towards recovery.

  • Sheila Bond Sheila Bond says:

    Laura, this blog is a great starting point and flags up that there is help available to those who live with this challenging condition. I know from coming to your support group on Sunday how knowledgeable you are and how passionate about getting the word out – it is a lonely world struggling away by yourself and I would highly recommend Laura’s support group and her workshops.

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