Chronic fatigue is a long-term condition that is often very disabling. We know through research and clinical experience that people who suffer from chronic fatigue are frequently exhausted, have trouble concentrating and tend to have problems with sleep and pain. As you can imagine, this condition makes it extremely hard for people with chronic fatigue to lead normal lives. It’s hard to believe there was once a debate on whether this condition even actually existed. Thankfully, we are past that phase and know that chronic fatigue is a real condition that affects thousands of people.
The question now is what treatments really work to help those suffering from chronic fatigue? Since we do not know all the causes, we might falsely assumne we have no good treatments. However, a new article helps bring a ray of light, and we think the results are very encouraging (and we are excited).
Research on chronic fatigue, published in The Lancet, was done in Britain with 640 patients. The patients were given counseling (called cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT) about managing their chronic fatigue, as well as standard medicines. They wanted to compare more aggressive therapies with standard approaches to see if it would actually do something, rather than just to say, “Oh don’t stress yourself out too much.” The researchers found that those who got this cognitive behavioral therapy, along with encouragement to really be active, actually did better than those who were told not to push the envelope. The study showed that active management benefitted up to 60% of the patients, and in a condition like chronic fatigue syndrome that is challenging to treat, this is a very significant improvement.
This study really proves that the best outcomes with chronic fatigue likely come from making positive adjustments to the condition, learning to sometimes push through and work harder to do more things, rather than succumbing to the fatigue and doing less. We also know that this is not simple or easy, but as doctors, it’s important to us when we’re talking to those with chronic fatigue, to discuss this new research. Of course this does not apply to everyone, if you or someone you know is living with this condition, keep this new research in mind and pass it along!