A common question asked in job interviews is “tell me about yourself.” Oftentimes, the best way to answer this question is to talk about your strengths and skills. However, some people struggle to find a strong response when asked what makes them unique.
Many of these individuals have ME/CFS, a complex chronic illness that impacts up to 2.5 million Americans. While there are no definitive diagnostic tests or cures, there are interventions and symptom-reduction strategies that can significantly improve patients’ quality of life. In the UK, a clinical guideline from NICE provides recommended recommendations to support patients with ME/CFS. The ME Association fully supports this guidance and is working with the NHS to ensure it is implemented effectively.
In ME/CFS, the central nervous system, immune and metabolic systems become overwhelmed with activity, leading to a severe, disabling illness. People with ME/CFS experience a range of symptoms, from fatigue and cognitive problems to sleep disturbances and pain. Most importantly, they do not recover after exertion and have a disproportionately high level of distress.
The disease can occur in people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds, but is most commonly diagnosed in those aged 40-60. The condition is more common in women than men, and among racial and ethnic minority groups. It is thought to be caused by a wide range of factors, including viruses, infections and psychological or physical stress.
Some people get ME/CFS following a sudden, flu-like illness, while others have had symptoms for months or years without having a specific trigger. Research has found that ME/CFS is linked to genetic, central nervous system and immune factors, but scientists are still working to understand exactly how these connections work in order to develop better diagnostics and treatments.
There are no definitive diagnoses for ME/CFS, but doctors can use the NICE guidelines or other published criteria to help identify key features of the condition. Typically, ME/CFS is differentiated from other conditions by its onset timing (immediate or delayed), its duration and the presence of PEM. The ME Association encourages healthcare professionals to discuss PEM with their patients and to consider it when evaluating symptoms of ME/CFS.
While there is no cure for ME/CFS, the ME Association continues to campaign for increased awareness of the condition, as well as more funding for research into its cause and treatment. Patients and their carers can also help by raising awareness and talking to their local MPs, councillors or health service providers. If you want to learn more about how you can help, visit our Members page for contact information on organisations in your country. We’ve also produced a factsheet for health professionals to provide more information about the symptoms and management of ME/CFS. You can download it here.