Fresh Approach to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Urged

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Patients with chronic fatigue syndrome or ME should receive both medical and psychological treatment for the condition, say experts. The root cause of ME -which is also referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome – is still a matter of debate.

Some doctors believe that it is principally a psychological illness, while others say that it should be regarded as a physical condition. Patients often accuse doctors of ignoring the physical aspects of their illness while some doctors say patients are often unwilling to consider any psychological causes.

This latest report calls on both sides to drop their polarized positions. They suggest that disagreement between the medical profession and patients has seriously interfered with good treatment.

The report, which was launched at the Royal College of Physicians in London, urges doctors not to rule out a physical cause of ME. But it also calls on patients to be open to the idea of psychological treatment.

It states: “Some doctors and health practitioners wish to deny or discount the physical aspects, just because they are not clearly understood and some patients are so angry having psychological problems wrongly ascribed to them that they dismiss as irrelevant any consideration of psychological aspects, however sympathetic and careful that consideration may be.”

‘Whole person’ approach

Dr Richard Sykes, author of the report and a consultant to Action for ME, said a “whole person” approach is needed. He said this involved viewing ME “as a physical illness which can be influenced, as other physical illnesses, by psychological and social factors.”

The report calls for further research into the condition but warns that it may be years before a physical cause is found. It states: “It is important that research is pursued on the physical basis of CFS/ME and on physical treatments for it. “It is also important that sensitive and sympathetic psychological help, based on a careful understanding of each individual patient and their illness, is provided.”

Dr Charles Shepherd, medical adviser at the ME Association, welcomed the report. “This report recognizes that whilst physical aspects of CFS/ME are extremely important, the illness can also produce quite profound psychological distress. “At present, the psychological and social aspects of CFS/ME are often neglected or badly managed by health professionals. “There can also be occasions when patients themselves fail to recognize that these aspects are exerting an adverse effect on any possible recovery process.”

Source: BBC News (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/2660963.stm).Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 00:05 GMT

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