Conventional medicine and chronic fatigue: the failed paradigm. Page 2 of 2
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Chronic fatigue is NOT depression
Although fatigue, changes in weight and difficulty sleeping may occasionally be indicative of mental illness, in and of themselves they are not mental illness! For the most part these of signs of poor health, and can be often helped through natural medicine.
However, it is a lot easier for a doctor to slap a "depression," or "chemical imbalance," label on a patient and send them out the door with a psychiatric drug prescription than do a proper work up.
|CFS or Depression?|
The diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is a lengthy process where all other possible causes of fatigue must be excluded.
However the diagnosis of depression, or prescription of anti-depressants medications is often quickly done requires a lot less work, and get's rid of those annoying patients for whom the doctor has no answer.
What does this mean for the typical patient?
Instead of getting a thorough investigation into the cause of chronic fatigue, patients are often referred to a psychiatrists or just told to take psychiatric medications for depression.
|The happy pill prescription|
The dismissal of patients who have fatigue caused by very real and fixable problems, as nut jobs, who need to be put on dangerous psychiatric drugs, which in the long run just make them even more sick, amounts to the total failure of the conventional medial system in understanding and treating chronic fatigue.
Does the conventional diagnosis even matter?
Ironically, even if patients where given a more correct diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome instead of depression, it really wouldn't make a big difference since the treatment basically going to be the same either way!
For example on the Mayo Clinic's web site, possible treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome include psychiatric drugs for depression, pain medications, and sleeping pills. 
What really determines the diagnosis
Often the diagnosis depends more on the doctor, than the patients actual illness. A chronic fatigue syndrome doctor will diagnose a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome whereas a depression doctor may diagnose the same patient with depression and a fibromyalgia doctor will diagnose the exact same patient with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a way misunderstood and overused diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is a condition associated with muscle pain and fatigue. However, there is a lot more that should go into diagnosing a patient with fibromyalgia than just that. Since many doctors don't understand what fibromyalgia is, there is a lot of misdiagnosis and misinformation about it. Go to my article What is fibromyalgia, for more information on hat this diagnosis is, and what it is not.
Treatment for fibromyalgia
Ironically, if a patient gets diagnosed with fibromyalgia instead of depression or chronic fatigue syndrome the treatment is going to be the same anyway. For example, treatment suggestions for fibromyalgia on the Mayo Clinic include: analgesics (or pain killers), anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs. 
|Treatment for fibromyalgia|
The Mayo clinic recommends:
This sounds a lot like the treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or depression!
Therefore three of the most common diagnoses chronically fatigued people get: Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and depression all lead to the prescription of antidepressants. As if these conditions where all caused by some kind of antidepressant drug deficiency. Patients with these diagnoses are also often prescribed pain killers and sleep medication.
Other diagnoses for chronic fatigue
Other common diagnosis the same patient may get from a different doctor is hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, viral infections, or to simply be told nothing is wrong and it's just stress or normal aging.
There are some chronically fatigued people who truly do have hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or some other illness which has been misdiagnosed.
However we must be wary anytime someone attempts to lump up all people who have chronic fatigue into the same category. The causes of fatigue are just too varied to do that.
CFS, Fibromyalgia and Depression
These three diagnoses have a lot in common:
- Not diagnosed by objective lab tests
- CFS and depression diagnosed by subjective check list of symptoms
- Conventional medical dogma is there is no known cause
- Treatment is often anti-depressants, pain killers, and sleeping pills
- Medications don't treat the cause of illness, but only symptoms
- Medications last for years, possibly for life
- No known causes. (Even if a "chemical imbalance," causes depression, what is causing the chemical imbalance?)
And finally, great overlap in the diagnostic criteria.
The graphic below illustrates this point:
|How many diagnoses apply to you?|
There are some people for whom one of these diagnoses makes sense. However, for many people these are just labels, given to them by a doctor who doesn't know what is going on. Depending on your symptoms, 1, 2 or all 3 of these diagnoses may apply to you.
Go here for an in depth chart comparing CFS, fibromyalgia and depression.
Therefore, if you have been given one of these diagnoses, you should consider if:
- The diagnosis was given after your doctor did a thorough evaluation which showed your diagnosis applies to your case.
- The diagnosis was given after a very brief evaluation, and you are not sure if it is correct. Often such diagnoses are followed by prescriptions of dangerous medications that don't help patients that much, if at all.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a single illness
The idea that "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," represents a single disease, with a single, as of yet, unidentified cause is baseless. Two different people could both have chronic fatigue syndrome, yet be sick for totally different reasons!
Please go to Chronic Fatigue considerations from a holistic perspective for an overview of the very real and fixable problems with so often do cause chronic fatigue and associated symptoms in so many people.
© 2010 Naturopathic Wellness LLC.
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Who's at Risk? CDC.gov http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/cfsatrisk.htm accessed 4/17/2010
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Definition. http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/cfsdefinition.htm. accessed 4/17/2010
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/chronicfatiguesyndrome.html#cat5 accessed 4/17/2010.
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Basic Facts. http://www.cdc.gov/cfs/cfsbasicfacts.htm. accessed 4/17/2010.
 Depression. Medline Plus. http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&query=depression&x=0&y=0 accessed 4/17/2010.
 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome By Mayo Staff. http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/DS00395/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print accessed 4/17/2010
 Fibromyalgia By Mayo Staff http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/fibromyalgia/DS00079/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all accessed 4/17/2010