The modern world can be an exhausting place. There are endless demands on your time, such as work, commuting, kids gym, and family commitments, that can leave even the most resilient among us feeling drained. But when does that ‘normal’ feeling of tiredness cross over into something a little more sinister? When does exhaustion become the disease known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? There are signs that answer the question, “How do I know if I have Chronic Fatigue?”
As it’s one of the most misunderstood ailments of the modern world, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or CFS) sufferers often find themselves branded as lazy rather than actually ill. Symptoms can range from constant exhaustion to depression, weakness of the limbs and an inability to get any kind of meaningful rest to the point where the sufferer becomes bedridden.
And the worst part is, nobody knows what causes it. Even the Mayo Clinic describes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as “a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can’t be explained by any underlying medical condition.” The clinic further notes that ‘the fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn’t improve with rest.”
So, with such a vague range of symptoms, how do you know that what you’re suffering from is actually Chronic Fatigue Syndrome? Well, there are a few subtle indicators that may suggest you have more than just a case of being plain ole exhausted.
How Do I Know If I Have Chronic Fatigue?
We put together this list of symptoms of CFS:
Enlarged Lymph Nodes
A quick feel of your neck beneath your ear and under your armpits will let you know if you have swollen or enlarged lymph nodes. There’s another lymph node in the middle of your upper right breast that you can also feel for. Are they a little tender? A little swollen? If so, that could mean that you have a low-lying infection of some sort that isn’t enough to create a temperature or other symptoms, but is enough to cause your endocrine system (lymph nodes) to become slightly inflamed.
Sleep Doesn’t Work
The most disturbing symptom of CFS is that sleep, as far as anyone can tell, has no effect on it. The natural tendency of anyone who’s feeling tired or exhausted is to go to sleep; CFS sufferers are no different, except that they can get any amount of undisturbed sleep and it has no effect whatsoever on their tiredness. If you’ve been tired for a few days, getting 8-10 hours of sleep a night, and you’re still exhausted – then you might be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
This particular symptom can lead to the classic signs of insomnia, just without insomnia. These signs include confusion, poor memory, slurred speech, concentration issues, irritability and general aches & pains.
There’s some debate in the medical community about whether depression is a side effect of CFS or a root cause. Regardless, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers will usually be hit with chronic depression at the same time. This will usually manifest itself in a lack of desire to do anything besides staying in bed.
Long Term Exhaustion For No Reason
Sometimes the body simply goes through a short period of adjustment to its sleep cycle and you can feel exhausted no matter what you do for two or three days. This isn’t Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medical professionals only begin to look at CFS when these symptoms of dramatic exhaustion, mental fatigue, depression and aches & pains last for six weeks or more.
If you’ve had a period of six continuous weeks where you’ve had all of these symptoms, then you may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Consult with a medical practitioner if this is the case with you. After a physical exam, they will run a series of tests on your blood to rule out other, potential causes of your symptoms. CFS can only be diagnosed by ruling out other conditions.