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Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.
The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.
There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may need a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms.
Chronic fatigue syndrome has eight official signs and symptoms, plus the central symptom that gives the condition its name:
- Loss of memory or concentration
- Sore throat
- Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits
- Unexplained muscle pain
- Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness
- Headache of a new type, pattern or severity
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
Chronic pain is pain which lasts longer than six months. Chronic pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, merely inconvenient or totally incapacitating.
With chronic pain, signals of pain remain active in the nervous systemfor months or even years. This can take both a physical and emotional toll on a person.
The most common sources of pain stem from headaches, joint pain, pain from injury, and backaches. Other kinds of chronic pain includetendinitis, sinus pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and pain affecting specific parts of the body, such as the shoulders, pelvis, and neck. Generalized muscle or nerve pain can also develop into a chronic condition.
Chronic pain may originate with an initial trauma/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain. Some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or evidence of body damage.
The emotional toll of chronic pain also can make pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and fatigue interact in complex ways with chronic pain and may decrease the body's production of natural painkillers; moreover, such negative feelings may increase the level of substances that amplify sensations of pain, causing a vicious cycle of pain for the person. Even the body's most basic defenses may be compromised: there is considerable evidence that unrelenting pain can suppress the immune system.
The symptoms of chronic pain include:
- Mild to severe pain that does not go away
- Pain that may be described as shooting, burning, aching, or electrical
- Feeling of discomfort, soreness, tightness, or stiffness
Pain is not a symptom that exists alone. Other problems associated with pain can include:
- Withdrawal from activity and increased need to rest
- Weakened immune system
- Changes in mood including hopelessness, fear, depression, irritability, anxiety, and stress