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Are you constantly tired? Beware
Ritusmita Biswas
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January 08, 2007

It was one of those days, thought Ronit Bose, a mid-level executive in a multinational company. He felt extremely tired. Every bone in his body was aching. Work pressure, he thought grimly, and assumed that, with a good night's sleep, the fatigue should be a matter of the past. There was no point, he reasoned, in disrupting his evening schedule and went for his regular run. Before completing the first lap, he was dead.

Incredible but true. With work pressure on the rise, more and more urban executives are falling prey to stress-related diseases.

So this is what medical practitioners say now. Feel pooped out? Take a break and get some rest. Stressed out? Relax with family or hit the treadmill. But if these leave you more tired, you may be a victim of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

CFS, which is now a prevalent problem, is not something that can be combated by rest or sleep.

This ailment involves persistent, unexplained tiredness that lasts several months. Rushing to your doctor is not the answer. Frustrating though it might be, CFS' treatment is often painstakingly slow and without any immediate apparent results. CFS could disappear within months, or relapse at intervals to plague you for the rest of your life.

"Yes, tiredness is on the rise among the generation X. Several patients come to me regularly with complaints of chronic tiredness, listlessness and lack of sleep," says Dr Amitava Chakrobarty, who is based in Kolkata.

Whoever said tiredness is just a state of mind was not entirely correct. According to modern research, CFS also involves immunological, neurological and hormonal anomalies. In this condition, the blood flow to brain is altered, leaving you mentally impaired to perform several tasks simultaneously.

Drinking energy supplements, popping vitamin pills, or a long vacation is not always the answer. "CFS might not be a psychosomatic disease, but the cause is essentially psychological. Around 15 per cent of today's urban adult population have emotional disturbances so serious that it can cause CFS," says Dr Chakrobarty.

"The mental condition has a visible impact on the body. Driven by illusory goals in a mad race against time, people today are exhausted even before they begin. Hard driven people between ages of 15 to 45 internalise their fatigue faster. CFS is pronounced among this age group," says psychologist Anindya Das.

Though CFS can begin from a no-trigger situation, serious infections like fever, flu, etc, boost the chances of its occurrence. Sleep disorders are another major cause. Prolonged insomnia, not sleeping enough for long periods of time results in stress, depression, anxiety, an overdose of caffeine can all be a cause for CFS. Sleep apnoea, where breathing disturbances cause frequent waking up, is can also result in CFS.

But the two primary reasons behind CFS are intellectual burnout and emotional stress. "In most cases, the victims are young IT or BPO professionals. They have a demanding lifestyle that induces CFS," says Dr Das.

Agrees BPO executive Tamanna, "It's true we are chronically tired, especially when we join first. After all, you are turning round your biological clock. After a few months, however, we get adjusted." Her friend Rahul (name changed),  however, says it's not that easy to adjust. "I am always tired. I have nothing in life to look forward to, not even my salary," he grumbles.

Other factors like low oxygen levels at home or at the work place, a diet that is poor in iron, protein or carbohydrates, emotional shock, thyroid problems, hormonal changes, poor posture, ennui, anaemia can all lead to CFS.

Symptoms might take time to be diagnosed, as we often dismiss them as daily tiredness. But when fatigue starts affecting your potential at the workplace and strains personal relationships, you should take notice. The usual symptoms that are associated with CFS include irritability, hyperventilation, sleeping too much, lack of enough sleep, appetite and bowel disturbances, sore throat, headache among others.

Unfortunately, there is no clearcut, well-defined treatment that could banish CFS forever. Usually, the stress keeps reappearing after certain periods of time. Cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling help patients use their limited energies optimally. Experts also recommend graded exercise (regular exercise is often very stressful), meditation, monitored nutrition and socialising.

Alternative therapies claim to cure this condition. Ayurvedic tonics comprising ginseng and ashwagandha are worth a try. Art therapy, music therapy, colour therapy or acupressure is also worth exploring.

A change in your dietary pattern and keeping a tab on your weight could go a long way to check tiredness. Eat more leafy vegetables and whole grains and avoid an overdose caffeine, alcohol, sugar. This will help improve your health and help combat CFS. "If changing dietary pattern, ensuring proper rest, and socialising is of no help, and CFS is prolonged, only then, under medical supervision, should one take mild anti-depressants or energy boosters," says Dr Chakrobarty.

So, the next time you realise that you have been down and dog-tired for days, take heed and change to a healthier, less hectic lifestyle.

Trans World Features

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