5 Myths About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS)


Myths about myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are prevalent. Dispelling these myths with facts is not only beneficial for individuals with the condition but also their family members, friends, and co-workers. Five common myths countered with the facts are listed below.

  1. Myth: ME/CFS is all in a person’s head.
    Fact: ME/CFS is an invisible illness, meaning that the person generally looks healthy from an outsider’s perspective. This fact combined with the fact that ME/CFS is often difficult to diagnose may lead others to believe that an individual’s ME/CFS symptoms are imagined. However, ME/CFS is a very real physical condition that affects more than one million Americans.
  2. Myth: Fatigue is the only symptom of ME/CFS.
    Fact: Problems with memory or concentration, headaches, dizziness, and muscle or joint pain are also symptoms of ME/CFS. Also, the fatigue experienced with the condition is much more than being tired. It can be severe enough to interfere with basic daily activities.
  3. Myth: Individuals with ME/CFS can just “sleep it off.”
    Fact: Although those with ME/CFS experience extreme fatigue, they may also have trouble falling asleep. When they do sleep, it is often not restful. Upon waking, fatigue may not be relieved or may quickly return. While individuals with ME/CFS do require more physical and mental rest than those without the condition, getting extra sleep is not a cure.
  4. Myth: ME/CFS affects everyone in the same way at all times.
    Fact: While some individuals may be homebound due to ME/CFS symptoms, others may be able to work or go to school. Also, an individual may have days in which symptoms are very minimal and other days in which they are severe. Severe symptoms often occur within a day or two after physical or mental activity due to post-exertional malaise (PEM).
  5. Myth: Nothing can be done about ME/CFS.
    Fact: While there is no cure for ME/CFS, steps can be taken to help reduce symptoms as much as possible. For example, individuals can practice activity pacing to help prevent PEM. Certain medications can help with pain or dizziness, and psychotherapy can address emotional challenges. Working with the right team of medical professionals can greatly improve an individual’s overall quality of life.
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