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The early years—patients struggle to validate their illness

As most patients are too painfully aware, throughout the history of CFS, the illness has been branded by many physicians and federal research agencies as a type of psychiatric illness. “Atypical depression”, the “yuppie flu”, “neurasthenia”, and “a cognitive/behavioral inability to handle stress due to poor coping skills” were some of the common descriptions.

Again, Dr. Komaroff returned to late 1980s by remembering a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in which deep skepticism about the illness was expressed. This skepticism was reflected far more broadly, not only by psychiatrists, but also by medical doctors. But now, Dr. Komaroff asserted: “The day for that skepticism has long since passed.”

He acknowledged that when not much was known about the illness in the late 1980s, there was very little evidence “to either support or reject the skepticism”. But in the last 20 years there has been an enormous amount of research that has clarified and defined major aspects of the illness. He stressed that, usually, in medical science the understanding of the cause of an illness and its effective treatment takes many years of careful medical research that builds upon itself.

And the research in CFS has been productively building upon itself: in the last 20 years over 5,000 scientific articles have been published—over 300 of which were in the some of the world’s most prestigious journals. There have been more than eight international conferences, which contained over 160 scientific presentations from scientists and doctors from all over the world. One of these conferences was in Boston and co-sponsored by the International Association for CFS/ME and the Massachusetts CFIDS/ME & FM Association.