Private eye Medicine Balls column, 25 November 2016: ‘ME cluster bomb’ [Written by ‘M.D.’, the nom de plume of Dr Phil Hammond and reproduced by the ME Association]:
MD’s greatest regret as a junior doctor was not to take the time to understand ME (myalgic encephalopathy). As a result, MD was infected with the same prejudices as many of his peers, namely that ME was largely psychological, and an illness of the middle classes (“yuppie flu”).
Both Beliefs are entirely wrong and have caused huge distress and damage to those with ME. Medicine has particularly failed those with severe ME, many of whom have lived for decades with a very disabling disease and the enduring sleight that it’s “all in the mind” or due to “faulty beliefs”. Although ample evidence exists of biological abnormalities in patients with ME, we are still some way from definitive pathological tests and effective drug treatments.
ME is often used synonymously with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) but the illness is far more than fatigue. MD’s view – working in an NHS clinic for young people with chronic fatigue – is that “CFS/ME” is a cluster of disorders which centre not just on severe, disabling fatigue but on post-exertional malaise (PEM), This means that previously very active patients can suddenly crash after physical or cognitive activity, which completely wipes them out for at least 24 hours and often much longer, with multiple unpleasant symptoms. Anyone who has lived through or observed such crashes is left in no doubt that the disease isn’t psychological.