You might think you know about M.E. already but there are a lot of myths about the illness portrayed in the media. May is M.E. awareness month, so I thought I’d try to dispel some of these myths with the facts about the illness.
The information here has been taken from Action for M.E.’s website and with each myth I’ve provided a link to more info. Please consider making a small donation to Action for M.E., the national charity I work with, via my JustGiving page .
Myth #1: M.E. isn’t a real illness
If only! Myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is a very real, long-term, fluctuating illness. A report by the US Institute of Medicine, Beyond M.E./CFS: redefining an illness , states that “M.E./CFS is a serious, chronic, complex, multisystem disease that frequently and dramatically limits the activities of affected patients”.
Myth #2: M.E. is a mental health problem
Nope! M.E. is defined by the World Health Organisation as a neurological illness, and there’s lots of research showing how the body’s affected, particularly the immune and nervous systems. Latest biomedical research
Myth #3: People with M.E. are just tired
I wish! I don’t feel tired, I feel ill all the time to varying degrees, even on a “good” day. There are something like 40 symptoms which someone with M.E. might have, such as muscle pain, headaches, migraines, sleep problems, problems with concentration and word-finding, digestive problems, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and noise. Full list of symptoms
Myth #4: M.E. is only a mild or minor illness
Absolutely not! Even mild M.E. can have a significant impact on someone’s life. People with moderate M.E. have reduced mobility and are restricted in all activities of daily living. They have usually had to stop work, school or college and might only manage to go out of the house a couple of times a week. A quarter have severe M.E. and are house or bed bound, unable to do anything or care for themselves. Degrees of severity of M.E. Severe M.E.
Myth #5: Children don’t get M.E.
Unfortunately a child as young as two years old has been diagnosed with M.E. and it’s the biggest cause of long-term school absence in the UK. Info for Employers and Teachers
Myth #6: Men don’t get M.E.
Yes they do! Men, women and children, and people of all social and ethnic backgrounds can develop M.E. too. Introduction to M.E.
Myth #7: M.E. is a rare illness
Nope! It’s not that rare really, and you might come into contact with someone with M.E. without realising. There are 250,000 people with M.E. in the UK and 17 million men, women and children affected worldwide. Introduction to M.E.
Myth #8: People with M.E. just need to think more positively
If only! No amount of positive thinking makes a physical illness like M.E. better. I’d say I’m a glass half full person but trying to snap out of it and push myself to carry on when I’d already relapsed made me so ill that I couldn’t get out of bed with severe M.E. Management of M.E. Severe M.E.
Myth #9: People with M.E. just need to do more, then they’ll have more energy
I’d love to do more! People with M.E. have to stick to their own safe level and amount of activity, called pacing, to try to avoid the worsening of our symptoms. We get post-exertional malaise (sometimes called PEM or payback), which is the body’s inability to recover after expending even small amounts of energy on physical and cognitive exertion. Pacing
Myth #10: People with M.E. aren’t really that ill because I saw someone at the supermarket and they looked fine
Nooooo! It’s unfair to judge people with M.E. like this, as it’s a fluctuating illness, so we can seem fine but then be too ill to do things at other times. You don’t see the resting we have to do before and after doing something, as part of our pacing to stay as well as we can. Also, if the person you know has moderate M.E., the trip to the supermarket might be one of their two big trips out of the house for that week. Pacing Degrees of severity
This was my shortlist of 10 myths about M.E. but I think there are plenty more. You could add some in the comments section below if you’d like.
How about seeing what you’ve learnt with my quick M.E. quiz?
What you can do to support people with M.E.
- Please share this widely – the more people who know the facts about M.E. the better!
- Get back in touch with a friend or colleague with M.E. who has disappeared from view because of their illness, and let them know you are thinking of them. Supporting a friend with M.E.
- Please consider making a small donation to Action for M.E., the charity I work with as Volunteer Pharmacist & Research Officer, via my JustGiving page to help raise awareness, support people with the illness, and fund biomedical research.
- Download and print a poster or leaflet to display in your workplace, library or health centre to raise awareness and show support of people with M.E.