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So why do people with ME/CFS have higher than normal
resting stress levels?

In our opinion there are two different types of people that tend to develop ME/CFS. The first, and most common, is the driven or achiever type; the sufferer tends to have great desire to achieve both at work/study and in their recreational life, this drive to achieve then leads to feelings of tension and stress. The second being the anxiety type, where the patient is highly concerned with creating an appropriate outcome and this concern invokes feelings of tension and stress again. The driven and/or anxious nature of people with ME/CFS, we consider, leads the sufferer to work/study excessively hard and take little time to relax (part of the NICE guidelines for ME/CFS state the importance of taking relaxation time18). The driven and/or anxious nature, accompanied with taking little time to relax, then induces a state of higher than normal resting stress which is responsible for all the physical symptoms of ME/CFS.

When ME/CFS has so many physical symptoms it is difficult to see that there could be anything but a physical cause. This is particularly difficult for sufferers of ME/CFS to understand as we, at the ME Treatment Clinic, are only too aware as the co-founder is himself an ex-sufferer. There are, in our opinion, physical factors which lead to the condition deteriorating but the root cause, if the chain of cause and effect is followed far enough back, lies in the resting stress response. The mechanisms through which we believe this occurs follow.

There is a wealth of research suggesting dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is prevalent in ME/CFS19-22. The HPA axis is the neurological system between the hypothalamus and the pituitary and adrenal glands. This is a key connection between the central nervous system and the endocrine system which manage reactions to stress and control many body processes, most importantly, from our point of view, the control of the immune system, digestion and the regulation of energy23,24.

Theories have been suggested that the dysfunction of the HPA axis is the cause of ME/CFS17,25. Elsewhere hypotheses have been put forward which suggest sustained arousal leads to ME/CFS14 and that the condition may be a stress intolerance and pain hypersensitivity syndrome26. It is our view that if dysfunction of the HPA axis is a factor in ME/CFS then it fits into the root cause to final effect path as follows. The higher than normal resting stress levels lead to sustained arousal which gives rise to the dysfunction of the HPA axis and this in turn induces all the physical symptoms of ME/CFS.


* How does the resting stress response lead to the symptoms of ME/CFS?

* Treatments for ME/CFS

 
 
 
 

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