Frequently asked questions
What causes CFS?
The cause of the condition is as yet unknown, but research has
shown that the onset of CFS is usually associated with a viral
illness (such as glandular fever), significant life stresses or
emotional events and other illness or a combination of them
What we do know is that it is a condition consisting of various
symptoms, the main one being persistent fatigue and excessive
tiredness or fatigue, made worse by activity and not alleviated by
sleep or rest.
Are my symptoms all in my head?
No. CFS symptoms are real physical symptoms; in some cases it
might not be clear why the symptoms have continued for so long but
that does not mean it is 'all in the mind'. CFS symptoms may be
exacerbated by unhelpful patterns of boom-bust activity or by
stress; we do know that the symptoms associated with CFS present a
complex interaction of physical, psychological, social and
emotional factors and a greater understanding of such factors and
how they work to maintain the difficulties is helpful for
Should I take antidepressants?
It is advisable to discuss your individual situation regarding
medication with your doctor. In general though, some
anti-depressants have been found to be helpful in cases of CFS e.g.
Amitriptyline for regulating sleep and reducing pain. However,
there is little evidence that other anti-depressants, e.g. Prozac,
are helpful in cases of CFS unless there is also a diagnosis of
Is exercise bad for me?
You may be worried that any increase in exercise or physical
activity could make your condition worse. Be reassured - research
has shown that a guided, gradual exercise programme can help people
who suffer from CFS without causing ill effects. It works by
helping you to gradually adapt to physical activities that you have
been unable to do since becoming unwell. Graded Exercise Therapy's
starting point is your own current level of ability and helps you
to work towards your own physical goals and objectives.
If you undertake a sudden and noticeable increase in your
activity or exercise levels this will likely result in a temporary
increase in symptoms or a setback. Whilst distressing, it does not
mean that you have damaged yourself or harmed your muscles and can
be managed like other setbacks. Exercise and activity should be
increased in a gradual manner and discussed with your
How long before I get better?
It is difficult to predict recovery in CFS and there is enormous
variation even in people with similar degrees of CFS severity.
Recovery from CFS means different things for different people;
Essex CFS Service is a rehabilitation and recovery service and
therefore we work with patients to help them achieve a good quality
of life, even if they do not make a full recovery to their
pre-illness levels of activity.
Should I have the flu jab?
There is no definitive answer or official guidance; some people
with CFS do suffer a setback following the flu jab, but this is
unlikely to be as severe as getting flu. For this reason many CFS
sufferers choose to have the injection, but it is ultimately down
to individual choice. You may wish to discuss this further with
Should I follow a particular diet or take
The recommendations for CFS from the British Dietetic
Association are to follow a healthy balanced diet - details of
which can be found on their website www.bda.uk.com.
It may also be helpful to eat regular small meals and snacks
which include slow release carbohydrates eg cereal bars, wholewheat
bread and rice, beans, fruits and vegetables, to help your energy
levels. There is no scientific evidence that a specific diet
improves CFS - if you require more advice it is advisable to
discuss with your GP who can refer you to a dietician if
There is a need for further research regarding supplements. The
current advice is that if you are concerned about nutritional
intake, keep to a multivitamin and mineral supplement with no more
than 100% recommended daily amount (RDA). If you spend limited time
outside it is recommended to take a Vitamin D supplement at 100%
Why do I feel better when I go on
Often, for patients with CFS, when they go on holiday the
increased relaxation and being away from daily stressors has a
beneficial influence on their CFS symptoms. However, a holiday can
also increase stress levels and have a negative impact on symptoms
due to the disruption to routine as well as the journey and the
preparation required. Being prepared for the latter, taking
pre-emptive rest and breaking up the journey can encourage a more
What benefits am I entitled to?
It is not within the remit of the Essex CFS Service to advise on
benefits; however it is recommended that if you have questions or
need advice to either contact your local jobcentre where they will
have a disability advisor, the Citizens Advice Bureau or
alternatively you can access the Government website www.gov.uk for
Do I need to inform the DVLA?
The DVLA indicates that anyone who has been given a new medical
diagnosis since obtaining their driving license is obliged to
Do I have to disclose my CFS diagnosis on an employment
You are under no obligation to disclose your diagnosis of CFS.
However there may be occasions where an application form requests
specific medical information. It is worth noting that if you do not
disclose CFS to an employer you do not come under the cover of the
Equality Act 2010 and therefore would be unable to seek 'reasonable
adjustment' in your workplace.
Is it safe to get pregnant if I have CFS?
Yes it is safe to get pregnant with CFS. It is thought that
about one third of women experience fewer CFS symptoms during
pregnancy, one third stay about the same and the remaining third
experience increased symptoms.
How long/frequently will I require
Treatment sessions last up to one hour consulting and may be
weekly, fortnightly, monthly or further apart.
What is expected of me?
We expect you to commit to a period of rehabilitation as guided
by your therapist. We do not recommend more than one therapeutic
treatment at a time in order to facilitate commitment and to avoid
any conflict of interest.
What happens if I am unable to get to a
It is important for your recovery to attend appointments in
person however, if you are unable to get to clinic you will be able
to change one of your treatment sessions to a telephone
appointment, apart from your initial assessment and first treatment
session which must be attended in person.
What happens if I am unable to keep an
If you do need to change an appointment please contact the
administration team on 01702 385247. If possible please try to give
us a few days' notice if you are unable to keep an appointment
rather than cancelling on the same day as the appointment.
If you do not attend your initial assessment appointment,
without contacting the service, you will be discharged back to the
care of your GP. We can only offer you two changes of appointment
during your treatment programme. This is to ensure that you gain
the maximum benefit from your therapy.
If you do not attend a treatment session without first
contacting the service, we will assume you no longer require
treatment and you will be discharged from the service. Your GP will