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Therapy could cure chronic fatigue syndrome

Therapy could cure chronic fatigue syndrome

A form of counselling may be the most effective way to treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS, also known as ME), according to new research.

Oxford psychiatrist Professor Michael Sharpe believes that patients suffering the condition are held back from recovering as they fear exercise and physical activity will make them worse. He feels their anxieties mean they don't push themselves, but taking part in cognitive behavioural therapy could help them overcome their worries.

"They get locked into a pattern where they do less, they get more concerned about doing more," he explained, adding that he insists ME is a "real illness" with severe consequences. "If you live within your limits, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Professor Sharpe and his team studied 641 patients, discovering that cognitive behaviour therapy proved more beneficial than the standard medical options to treat the condition. Over 12 months they found the therapy achieved better outcomes than the likes of sleeping pills and pain relief medication. The researchers also noted that working out helped too, with the results published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal.

The symptoms of CFS include extreme tiredness, mental lethargy which can go on for years and a flu-like illness. Although what causes it isn't clear, there have been claims it's triggered by viral or bacterial infections, problems with the immune system or hormone imbalance. However, some believe it's more a state of mind and that CFS is a psychological condition.

"Just because your condition gets better with rehabilitation does not mean it is not a real illness," Professor Sharpe added.

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