An article from The Faculty Lounge.
Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome an organic disease that should be addressed by biomedical research, or is it a only psychological condition best treated by some form of psychotherapy? Until recently, the answer to that question was in dispute, with immunologists and microbiologists tending to take one side, and a group of psychiatrists on the other. The latest research, however, has come down decisively in favour of the physiological explanation, to the embarrassment of the doubters and the relief of many long suffering patients.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS) is an incurable disease with devastating symptoms that include blinding headaches, profound exhaustion, muscle weakness verging on immobility, exertion intolerance, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, and the inability to stand or sit upright. Most patients will tell you, however, that by far the worst part has been the scorn they once had to endure from physicians, employers, and even friends and family, who frequently refused to believe that they were truly sick.
Fortunately, the situation has improved significantly in the United States, where there is now widespread recognition that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a biomedical illness with physiological causes. Regrettably, other countries have not all gotten the news – most notably the United Kingdom, where prominent psychiatrists have successfully argued that it should be treated primarily as a cognitive and behavioural disorder. That may also be about to change, however, because a new investigation – just published on the website of a Columbia University virology expert — has thoroughly debunked the underpinnings of the British psychiatrists’ approach (more on that after the jump).
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