Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

I chose chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as the medical condition for this week’s assignment because I believe it is something that is something that is very real, but not quite believed by society to be an actual illness. Our culture is very fast-paced. If someone is unable to keep up they will likely be looked at as an outsider who is lazy or unwilling to contribute to the community on the same level as everyone else because the illness itself is subjective. It makes it more difficult in that there is no single biomedical method to prove that a person has the illness. Light exercise, proper nutrition, and behavioral therapy are all recommended methods of treatment for CFS (“Management of CFS.”). Our culture influences the illness experience by expecting the person to assume the sick role and seeking professional help. Biomedicine also influences the experience in that clinicians may order blood work and other physical tests to prove or disprove the patient’s story and recommend treatment.

CFS is often likely treated with behavioral therapy, periodic psychological evaluations, or drugs. Therapists may be used to help the patient develop better daily routines. Placebos or antidepressants may also be used to induce a positive therapeutic response. These seem to be very different responses to a syndrome that may very well have many simultaneous causes.

I believe the linkage between belief and healing is incredibly strong. While I do not think we are capable of re-growing severed limbs, I do think a positive attitude and a genuine belief in therapeutic success has a huge effect on the success of the patient. This seems to be the equivalent of the placebo effect in that if a patient can be convinced that they are cured they being to feel better regarding their symptoms. This type of healing was illustrated in the film, “Placebo: Cracking the Code” multiple times including the recovery of the placebo knee surgery patients, the placebo effects of doctors/monarchs/clergy throughout history, the woman whose depression improved after placebo treatment, the effect of religion on healing, the positive effects of placebic pain killers on shock patients, and the hypnotism of the boy with the warts/skin condition all over his body. One of my own experiences involves my kids. Whenever they fall and scrape their knees or bump into something I kiss their wounds, which seems to actually make them feel better. At the very least this motion relaxes them, which seems to let them move beyond the pain of the injury.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Management of CFS.” Accessed July 24, 2014.

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  1. Naomi Fleischmann says:

    Whenever I would hear of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), I would immediately think of a person who sleeps through class and takes naps when he gets home. I never really thought of it as an illness that would have a profound effect on one’s life. I hate to say it, but in my mind chronic fatigue syndrome translated to someone who is extremely lazy and does not want to deal with the stresses of life. From a biomedical stand point, I was sure that a doctor would recommend something as simple as caffeine or fewer naps to a patient because I did not think that there was any sort of medicine that would help a person overcome his CFS. My point of view was probably most profoundly influenced by the television news reports. It seems as if whenever I watch the news, reporters are telling a story about a young person right out of college who created a new multi-million dollar business. These numerous success stories have made me think that people who are not constantly working hard are simply lazy and are trying to make excuses instead of work through their problems. However, I never took into account people who might be “lazy” due to a medical condition. Since the science behind chronic fatigue syndrome is still up in the air I don’t know exactly what to believe at this point, but thanks to this class I have come to understand that my original perceptions of CFS were probably not entirely composed of my own original ideas but were likely influenced by persuasive outside forces (i.e. the news).

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