What to Do If You or Someone You Love
Has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Barbara Pino, MA, MFCC

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is an illness that is on the rise. It is so prevalent that the Center for Disease Control has a menu of pre-recorded information about CFS available on its info-line. Among private insurers, CFS has been the fastest rising cause of disability in both men and women since 1989. A presentation at the last Chronic Fatigue Syndrome conference by the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health reflected the government's increasing attention to CFS as a real public health concern.

If you believe you have CFS, receiving a diagnosis as early as possible can be most helpful. Finding a physician who is familiar with CFS and sensitive to the problems associated with it can be a task, but patients agree it is worth the effort. Most CFS associations and support groups have lists of doctors who are supportive.

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Frequently, patients find that a combination of traditional and holistic approaches is most effective in supporting the immune system. Almost all find that a changes in diet and lifestyle are essential elements to feeling better. Because CFS is a chronic illness, it is important to have coping mechanisms and lifestyle patterns which work for the long haul.

Friends and family can:

Give the patient understanding by validating the patient's perceptions that he or she is sick;
Allow the patient to take care of herself, however she chooses;
Give the patient permission to do only what he feels like doing and ease up on obligations and social/time commitments;
Take care of your needs for time away, alone time, and nurturing.

Develop friendships that allow you to vent resentment, anger, and frustration so that it isn't directed toward the patient. Find a support group for partners of patients, using Internet Newsgroups to ask questions and seek support from other net users.

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The patient can be most helped by:

Focusing on what she/he CAN do in the present;
Paying attention to signals from the body;
Using these signals to find relief in small ways (shifting weight while seated, sleeping different hours, vitamins, massage, 10-minute walks, etc.);
Working toward wellness using whatever modalities seem to help with the assistance of a trained physician and psychotherapist;
Understand that loved ones may vary in consistency of availability over time (they get stressed with this illness too, and have a right to talk about it with others, or with you);
Find information and support in as many ways as possible. Utilize Internet news services, information files, and discussion/support groups for CFS patients.
Using creativity to find what works for you can be rewarding, resulting in richer life quality.

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For more information, contact

The Life Strategy Center at (619) 295-9313
The CFIDS Association of America, Inc. at (800) 442-3437.

5/30/98

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Barbara Pino, MA, MFCC is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Diego, California. Having recovered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after four years of disability, she specializes in working with immune system issues. Ms. Pino is a CFS resource contact person in San Diego and regularly writes and lectures to promote education in the area of immune system problems.

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