M.E.  - Definitions

.E. - definitions

Introduction: This is a rewrite of november 2009 of a file that has been much longer on the site. My reason for the rewrite is that it has become high time to distinguish two kinds of definitions of M.E.

1. The scientific definitions
2. Recent developments
3. The fraudulent definitions

Incidentally, M.E. or ME is also known as C.F.S. or CFS, and indeed also in combinations thereof, such as ME/CFS. The reasons for this will be briefly discussed below, as is my reason for avoiding "CFS" to describe my illness.

1. The scientific definitions

There are many definitions of what I call "M.E." and also many other names for it. There are two kinds of reasons for this, and the first kind is scientific:

There is no widely accepted medical or scientific explanation of M.E.; there is no widely accepted therapy; there is no known cure; there are many different interests involved; and the more or less accepted symptoms of M.E. probably cover several - possibly related - types of disease.

Here the reader should realize two things:

First, this has been so with very many diseases (and lasted many decades if not more for some diseases) and especially until their medical cause(s) were discovered, which when really found is normally attested to by some kind of (partial) cure based on these causal findings. (This is the same as in real science: Physics and chemistry are real sciences because they enable the surrection of a really working technology based om these sciences, that would not exist if these sciences were not mostly factually accurate in the theories that went into the technologies.)

Second, that there is no known cause for one's illness does not - in logic, but see below - mean at all that one is not ill, cannot know that one is ill, or that others cannot know that one is ill, and indeed the World Health Organization has admitted ME/CFS as a real physical disease - not psychosomatic, not psychiatric, not delusional, not fraudulent - since 1969.

Again, this is much like with other admitted diseases before their causes were found, except that it is these days a bit more bureaucratized and formalized than in earlier days.

The thing to hold fast is this: Since 1969 very many highly qualified medical specialists, biochemists, and other real scientists concerned with ME/CFS have agreed that ME/CFS is a real and serious physiological disease.

And indeed there has been a considerable amount of research into ME/CFS, that jas resulted in a good attempt at defining and describing the ailment I suffer from since January 1, 1979. It is under the following link:

This is a medical report by a group of medical specialists prepared for the government of Canada that dates from 2003. It is in PDF and is 222 Kb. (So you need Adobe Acrobat, which you can get for free on many places on the internet.) It also is written in medicalese, as is unavoidable when one treats the disease on a scientific level. This may make it difficult to read for persons with no or little medical knowledge, but it is a good and clear report, and a widely accepted description of the symptomatology associated with the disease.

There also are other efforts to arrive at a useful set of symptoms to help identify and distinguish persons suffering from ME/CFS, that are not quite the same as the one given above, but that are mostly the same.

This is the reason I spoke of "definitions" in the title of the present section: There are several - and there were even more in earlier days - but they mostly agree on the symptomatology.

Next, another terminological issue:

I mentioned above the abbreviation "CFS" as an alternative for "ME" and said I rejected it. Here is why:

The abbreviation "CFS" stands for "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome", which is a medical and bureaucratic euphemism I reject for my ailment, since it is grossly misleading:

The "fatigue" I indeed have is not normal and the name "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" implicitly denies or pooh-poohs other serious aspects of M.E. such as muscle aches and other complaints (dizziness, diarrhea, sweating, troubles with sleeping, seeing, remembering and thinking, and many more: See ME/CFS for a good survey).

One reason the term "fatigue" is misleading is that what ails me (and others with M.E.) is a continuous lack of energy, apparently because something doesn't work properly in the energy-metabolism. This indeed has the effect that one feels "tired" nearly always, but even so it is very easy for me to know whether or not I am tired in the ordinary sense, after having been awake a considerable time. Thus, I generally wake up feeling miserable, having no energy, and having muscular pains in my arms and legs, but when I have been awake long enough in addition I also get the normal feeling of being tired.

Another reason to reject "CFS" as a name for my disease is that there seem to be at least two groups of patients with ME/CFS, and my symptoms and the start of my disease (Epstein-Barr) fit considerably better with the ME-group.

However, my main reason is the former: To reduce what I suffer from to "fatigue" or "tiredness" is denigrating, misleading, does no justice whatsoever to my symptoms, invites derision, and even the name "fatigue" is a misnomer, for it is no ordinary fatigue and does not feel like it.

2. Recent developments

In the beginning of October 2009, a very interesting finding was published about ME/CFS, in one of the most important scientific journals there are, Science, namely that a recently discovered retro-virus, that goes by the name of XMRV, has been found in the blood of patients with (severe) ME/CFS in 66% of the cases investigated, as compared with 4% in case of a presumably mostly healthy control-group.

This is statistically highly significant (and further findings were even more significant: 95% in a wider group, investigated after the Science article), although it is not a proof of cause in any sense, but only a highly interesting correlation (for the XMRV-virus may be present in ME/CFS-patients e.g. because their resistance against it has been lowered by the real cause of the disease).

Even so, it is a considerable step forward and it has also given high hopes, sometimes not realistic, but quite understandble, to patients with ME/CFS - some of whom, such as myself, have been ill for three decades or more, without getting any effective medical help.

This last fact is especially due to - caused by - the efforts of a number of psychiatrists and psychologists (that is: people without a good grounding in real science, but with a major interest in getting paid for such therapies as they themselves provide and sell), especially in the UK and Holland:

3. The fraudulent definitions

Since the 1980ies a group of psychiatrists based in the UK, notably professors Wessely and Sharpe, have found a nice and convenient way to enrich psychiatrists and psychotherapists - that is usually: university-graduates in psychology who specialized in psychotherapy, just as psychiatrists are university-graduates in medicine who specialized in psychiatry.

Messrs. Wessely and Sharpe have namely decided that ME/CFS is, either in their understanding or with a view to their financial interests, best defined  as a psychosomatic psychiatric disorder, and have tried to impose that definition ever since as THE correct one in all manner of English bureaucratic, state and health-organizations.

The reason for this is obvious, when looked upon as sound marketing:

Every ME/CFS-patient thus became a potential source of income - by way of paid psychotherapies to be given to them so as to cure them from "somatizing", as messrs. Wessely and Sharpe like to call it.

Personally, I am willing to suppose that financial benefit for themselves and many others from their own professional group formed the main (conscious) reason for Wessely's and Sharpe's many efforts, though it clearly sounds pretty mad in view of the World Health Organizations classification of the disease as neurological or physical, and not as psychiatric or delusional - for surely the WHO has more medical capacity and relevant knowledge than two British shrinks.

But then there have been quite a lot of evidently at least slighly mad psychiatrists, starting with Freud and Jung themselves.

In any case, Wessely and Sharpe were rather succesful in the UK, probably because they are not serious scientists (*), but very effective manipulators of health-organizations, and as a result many British patients with ME have been delivered in their hands or those of their psychiatric and psycho-therapeutical brethren, to get cured from their delusions, somatizations, and related forms of madness if not malingering, normally by having to follow courses in - highly paid: there is that human-all-too-human motive again - Cognitive Behavourial Therapy a.k.a. CBT.

The small problem with it was only that it did cure very few or none, and made the life and health-situation of very many exposed to it much worse than it was without all the physical exercise required to do a psychiatric therapy at a psychatrists or psychotherapist's office - of course highly paid: and there is that human-all-too-human motive again - besides causing many a lot of physical pain.

Now this did not at all stop messrs. Wessely and Sharpe from denigrating and defaming patients with ME/CFS, and indeed continueing to do so was much in the interests of every UK psychiatrist and psychotherapist (that is: in so far as these were willing to trample on the World Health Organizations ruling, and to play with the ill health of ill people for no better reason than self-enrichment).

But it did, in the course of time, stop some GPs and other medical people sending their patients with suspected ME/CFS to the psychiatric and psychotherapeutic brotherhood, for which reasons - among others - the position of messrs. Wessely and Sharpe, also in their own UK, is less strong than it used to be, though they still seem to have a lot of influence, having manipulated themselves in all manner of medical institutions and committees concerned with ME/CFS, on the strength of their medical degrees and their publications about ME/CFS over the last decades, which makes them nominally "specialists" in the disease and its treatment.

My own opinion about them, and about their Dutch counterparts professors Van der Meer and Bleyenberg, who dealt for decades in the same drivel in Holland, presumably from the same financial motives and personal reasons, being myself a psychologist and philosopher of science who has ME/CFS (symptomwise) for over thirty years now, without getting any effective help, mostly thanks to the efforts of messrs. Wessely, Sharpe, Van der Meer and Bleyenberg over the same decades, is the following.

First, I can understand the financial motives of these gentlemen, and the reason why they have been much supported by their fellow psychiatrists and psychotherapists: They were as honest and sincere as were Freud and Jung, who also were in it for the money, if not outright insane themselves.

Second, I find it more difficult to understand why they could get away with it for so long, in view of the World Health Organization's ruling on the disease, and in view of much real research over the last decades, by real scientists, that there are many things physically wrong with patients with - the symptoms of - ME/CFS, none of which can be plausibly explained by any psychiatric theory, however unscientific, and none of which is amenable to psychiatric or psychotherapeutic treatment.

The probably strongest reason here why theyu could get away with it for so long were given long ago, and in other contexts, by Rochefoucauld and Burke:

"We have all sufficient strength to support the misfortunes of others."

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."  

Please note that in both cases - "to support the misfortunes of others"  and "to do nothing" - it helps a lot if these same ommissions (by coincidence or by design) happen to financially help oneself or members of one's own professional group a lot.

Third, having been almost continuously in pain over the last 20 years, while having the best possible degrees in psychology and philosophy, has set me thinking about the motives of these gentlemen, of whom at least three must at some point in their lives have sworn the Hippocratical oath, that includes as its first article

"First do no harm".

Why have they harmed, offended, denigrated, and trampled upon the chances for a happy or at least a bearable life of so many patients with ME/CFS, and why have they done so for decades, all in the face of the evidence compiled by medically and biochemically far better qualified researchers that their personal psychiatric redefinition of the physical disease ME/CFS was utterly false and harmful, besides being offensive?

Presumably professors Wessely and Sharpe - both psychiatrists, both to my knowledge without any real scientific qualification in the relevant (biochemical or physiological) fields of scientific research into ME/CFS - have read more psychiatric literature than I have, but such psychiatric literature as I have read, and such knowledge as I do have of human beings and human psychology, at my age of nearly 60, spend for more than half the time in misery and poverty due to a disease which is according to messrs. Wessely, Sharpe, Van der Meer and Bleyenberg a delusion or a fraud, have led me to this conclusion:

Very probably, these gentlemen are - probably unconscious, but I am known to be an optimist about human motives - sadists: They like it that others suffer, especially if these others are in their power; they enjoy denigrating, belittling and offending people, quite possibly as much as a Limbaugh or Beck love doing so, but in a more quite quasi-scientific way; their main reasons to become a healer of some kind were probably the status and the power attached to their functions, next to the excellent incomes; and by and large they are just personal rotters or else sickos, with a clear personal psychiatric problem (sado-masochism), for which I invite them for paid treatment at my home, since I believe Cognitive Behavourial Therapy is just the therapy of choice for that, and I am a qualified psychologist, also very well capable of handing out severe tonguelashings, especially of nominal doctors of medicine who abuse their degrees to indulge in private sadism for private pay.

In brief: By my lights, these gentlemen are medical frauds; their definitions of and writings about ME/CFS are fraudulent and false; and their probable personal and financial motives are despicable if not outright sick.

For more on this, see More about ME, which discusses articles by prof. Hooper, that I was not fortunate enough to find earlier.

Finally, for those who disagree: Try to live with ME for 30 years yourself, all the time being discriminated as if one is a fraud or a loony or meet me in court - and yes, I am perfectly well willing to grant that the sadism I impute to the slandering professional gentlemen, like the delusions they attribute to me, are in fact unconscious, and that in reality they did not really know what they were unconsciously indulging in for decades.

And no: Personally, I do not believe this - I believe it was all quite conscious, quite deliberate, and done gleefully and with great amounts of very pleasant Schadenfreude - but then I know enoough of psychiatry, psychology and the law to admit the possibility of a sadist in the guise of a professional psychiatrist, who himself does not know he is a sadist, and who regards his - to others - obvious sadism (denigration, disqualification, misrepresentation, causation of real physical harm) as if it were human benevolence of the highest order and integrity.

It is possible, though, that I am as mistaken about messrs. Wessely, Sharpe, Van der Meer and Bleyenberg's motives just as good catholics will insist I am mistaken about Torquemada's motives and intentions: After all, they may mean well even if they do harm, and should have known so for decades, especially since there own professional medical brethren, with much better scientific knowledge and understanding of ME/CFS, have at least by implication been telling them for decades now.

Note of September 10, 2016: All of the above is from 2009 or before. It does need some revisals, but (apart from resizing, coloring and diminishing the size of the letters, I did do nothing so far).

(*) Psychiatrists and psychologists - with a few rare exceptions - just are not real scientists, and usually don't know much of real science - to be understood as: mathematics, physics, biochemistry - and indeed do not get much during their university years.

And the causes of ME/CFS are physiological, as the WHO assumes, and as most bona fine researches in ME/CFS assume, psychiatrists and psychologists are just not qualified to do much or any decent research in the field, just as they are not qualified to do
much or any decent research in biochemistry or physics.

last update: Sep 10, 2016