It is a controversial condition that has been swept under the carpet for decades, claiming it is only psychological.
Instead, the now proven truth is myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is physical – and not only made by mentally ill patients.
Millions of lives around the world are being destroyed by the relentless condition, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Sufferers are often left house bound, locked up in their beds, depending on feeding snakes and even need help getting them in the shower.
But despite the evidence that it really comes to the fore, ME remains incurable and dozens of people mistakenly think it's just & # 39; laziness & # 39; is.
In the hope of ending ignorance about the crippling ailment, MailOnline has heard of three long-standing patients.
Heartbreaking, they revealed how doctors blamed them for wasting their time, noticed attention-seekers, and told them their condition does not exist.
Before she was knocked down by ME, Jennifer Chittick was out-going, hardworking and enthusiastic about her future as a primary school teacher (pictured at her graduation)
ME Association medical adviser Dr. Charles Shepherd said: & ME is a condition we can all too easily ignore because those affected by the condition are not seen by society.
& # 39; We are therefore delighted with the way MailOnline has provided a platform for these three women to tell their heartbreaking life stories with this devastating, misunderstood disease.
& # 39; Unfortunately there are another 250,000 people who also suffer from ME in the UK – and their own personal stories about tragedy remain largely hidden behind closed curtains.
& # 39; It's incredible to understand that some doctors still refuse to accept ME as a real medical condition, despite the countless stories of intense physical weakness. & # 39;
I have been treated like a hypochondriac for a decade – now my condition is worse than ever
Before she was knocked down by ME, Jennifer Chittick was out-going, hardworking and enthusiastic about her future as a primary school teacher.
Now, a decade after getting sick, the 31-year-old is weaker than ever, completely bedridden and dependent on her retired parents to take care of her.
During her painful struggle to diagnose, doctors have repeatedly rejected her debilitating symptoms as a mere product of her imagination.
And she claims that this delay, fueled by ignorance in the medical community, is the reason she is just as bad as today.
Chittick, from Glasgow, said: During my entire time with ME, the treatment I received from doctors was regrettable.
& # 39; I am treated like a hypochondriac and an inconvenience, a blinded patient who refuses to get the help her doctors believe she needs. & # 39;
General practice was a weekly phenomenon when she first fell ill in 2009, months after her graduation and her first teaching duties.
She said: & # 39; I was very nauseous, exhausted, dizzy and hard to concentrate. I started taking more and more free time.
Now, a decade after getting sick, the 31-year-old is weaker than ever, completely bedridden and dependent on her retired parents to take care of her (pictured in bed at home)
WHAT IS CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME?
About 250,000 people in Britain suffer from the condition, which is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, extreme fatigue and mental lethargy that can last for years.
Other symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or myalgic encephalopathy (ME), include impaired sleep, poor memory and decreased concentration.
The cause of the disease is unclear, giving rise to the heated debate that has existed for decades in the medical community.
Some experts think that the disease is caused by a virus, in a similar way to glandular fever. It has also been associated with infections, operations and accidents.
But skeptics think it's just a psychological disorder because of a lack of physical cause, which led to a stigma that led to the fact that patients were fired because they were nothing more than & # 39; yuppie flu & # 39; had because it seemed to hit young professionals only when it emerged prominence in the 1980s.
Some patients return to full health and others gradually decline, but most fluctuate between good and bad periods.
There is no cure for CFS, with most treatments to reduce symptoms being ineffective. They include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), gradual exercise therapy and medicines such as antidepressants.
The World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Care recognize CFS as a medical condition.
Worldwide, it is believed that 17 million people suffer from CFS, according to the ME Association.
& # 39; I eventually became so weak that I could not get dressed or get off the couch and had to stop the work altogether. & # 39;
In March 2010, she collapsed at home and was taken to an unnamed hospital – the three days they spent there were & # 39; the worst of my life & # 39 ;.
Mrs. Chittick claims that cruel nurses use the expression & # 39; attention seeker & # 39; muttered when they walked past her and lay helpless in bed.
And before she fired without answering her ailment, doctors refused to help her get into bed, water her, or even take a shower.
& # 39; Despite the fact that my condition deteriorated drastically, I was repeatedly told that I would be better after a good night's sleep and be back to work within two weeks, & # 39; said Chittick.
& # 39; As time went on and I got worse, my doctors became frustrated and angry with me. They insisted that nothing serious was wrong with me.
& # 39; They began to suggest that I was suffering from anxiety and depression and complained about the & # 39; significant amount of time & # 39; that I took. & # 39;
Only at the end of 2011 did she pay a private neurologist from London who specializes in the condition that she was diagnosed with ME.
She said: & # 39; Receiving the diagnosis was confirmation that everything my family and I went through was not the result of my imagination or hypochondria. & # 39;
Over the years, Mrs. Chittick claims that GPs have refused to visit her at home on the grounds that & # 39; ME has no influence on your ability to walk to the surgery & # 39 ;.
She also claims that they have called against her, asked her to accept that her illness is fear, and refuses to perform tests that have proven that she has ME.
Hoping to combat her symptoms, doctors gave her cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), provided by mental healthcare specialists.
But the hour-long sessions could not work. Nurses said it was due to a lack of motivation, a claim that & # 39; soul-destroying & # 39; was for Chittick to hear.
Gradual exercise therapy also proved unsuccessful. The physical therapist who treated her reportedly said this because she was not trying hard enough.
Mrs. Chittick said that the lack of conviction that her condition was real made her feel "even more frustrated, alone and hopeless."
& # 39; I am convinced that if I received different treatment from doctors, I would not be as sick as I am today, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; The stress that doctors have caused has been a disaster for my health and has greatly contributed to the living nightmare of the past ten years. & # 39;
She added: & # 39; It should have taken no more than a year to get a diagnosis … I shouldn't have been fighting and fighting to get the care and support I needed. & # 39;
Chittick hopes the & # 39; harmful attitude & # 39; she encountered from doctors once a & # 39; case of the past & # 39; and that patients will be treated with the respect they deserve.
The founder of the SCREW ME support page, which has several hundred followers on Facebook, is not alone in its struggle with ignorant doctors.
For years, doctors have told Jo Moss that she was suffering from anxiety and depression or that she would be less tired if she didn't sleep that much
I have been too weak to get far from my bed for six years – but doctors have said the condition that causes my fatigue does not exist
For years, doctors have told Jo Moss that she was suffering from anxiety and depression or that she would be less tired if she didn't sleep that much.
Now, 13 years after she was diagnosed with ME, the 44-year-old is too weak to get out of bed for six years and doctors still don't know how to help her.
WHAT IS THE PACE TEST?
The 2011 PACE study, published in The Lancet, was the largest trial to date of people with the mysterious and debilitating condition – based on 641 people.
Experts from the Queen Mary University of London found, among other things, that up to 60 percent of patients improved as therapists gradually encouraged them to do more.
In contrast, patients whose therapists encouraged them to accept the limits of their illness and adjust their lifestyle to live with it, showed significantly less improvement when followed up after 24 and 52 weeks.
The original results of the £ 5million study showed that CBT and exercise benefited up to 60 percent of patients.
The findings of the study have been used to help form the basis of treatment in Britain and the US and have contributed to the debate that the condition is only psychological.
But a re-analysis of the findings, provided by critics, showed that the real results were much closer to the 20 percent, statnews reports.
Campaigners have since asked to cancel the trial, citing the various shortcomings, especially relaxed medical standards after the trial started.
Instead, she claims to have done the opposite by telling her that they don't believe in the poorly understood state or that they don't have ME at all.
& # 39; There is no aspect of my life that has not been affected & & # 39 ;, said Moss from Norwich.
& # 39; I have a severe form of ME, meaning I am locked up in bed because of tiredness, weakness and chronic pain, and I rely on caretakers and my spouse for most things. & # 39;
Antidepressants prescribed by a doctor who has diagnosed her incorrectly have only made the symptoms worse, she said, and only one doctor is both sympathetic and knowledgeable.
& # 39; Many doctors have rejected my symptoms and my ME diagnosis, & # 39; said Mrs. Moss. & # 39; And the doctors who actually want to help are missing the knowledge. & # 39;
Although she was referred to a specialized clinic the first time she was diagnosed, Mrs. Moss said she had never seen a doctor and that she had just learned to control herself.
In other attempts to seek help, she was told that she had PTSD instead, that too much sleep was causing her paralyzing fatigue, and a warning to her to get up and say & you are dying in that bed & # 39 ;.
& # 39; Another doctor was extremely open about his disbelief with ME, & # 39; said Mrs. Moss, revealing that they said to her: & I don't believe in ME – it doesn't exist. & # 39;
And they were told to take part in a Pilates class at a time when Mrs. Moss, married to David, 44, said she was barely strong enough to sit alone.
She fears that a lack of understanding drives doctors to regard it as a mental problem rather than as a real, measurable condition.
Moss added: “Although there is an enormous amount of evidence available from a large number of studies that prove that ME is a neurological disorder, there are still so many medical professionals who think it is a mental disorder.
& # 39; Until a definitive test confirming a diagnosis of ME is confirmed, I am concerned that this attitude will continue. & # 39;
Mrs. Moss was an independent financial advisor training before she fell ill.
Now, 13 years after she was diagnosed with ME, the 44-year-old is too weak to get out of bed for six years and doctors still don't know how to help her.
My daughter was ruled to have died from ME – denying that the condition exists is akin to refusing to believe climate change
It was two years ago that a coroner ruled that ME was to blame for the death of young theater student Merryn Crofts.
But her ruined mother, Clare Norton, says that the unjustified stigma and lack of knowledge about the cruel situation remains a major problem.
The 50-year-old said: & # 39; There is now more than enough biomedical evidence showing that ME is not a hysteria or deconditioning.
& # 39; Claiming differently is similar to deniers of climate change.
& # 39; It is time to put aside ego's, listen to science, listen to patients and remember the Hippocratic Oath – do no harm.
It was two years ago that a coroner ruled that ME was responsible for the death of the young drama student Merryn Crofts (photo)
ARE SCIENTISTS NEXT TO A TEST FOR ME?
ME patients have longed for the end of decades of doubt about the legitimacy of their condition.
Now, however, researchers are finally beginning to offer hope for ending the stigma and ridicule that patients have had to endure.
Scientists at Stanford University announced last month that they had made a blood test for the condition.
The test accurately identified which half of a group of 40 had been diagnosed with ME and which was not – with 100 percent accuracy.
& # 39; Too often, this disease is categorized as imaginary & # 39 ;, said senior researcher and professor of biochemistry and genetics, Dr. Ron Davis.
The test he designed in collaboration with the lead research author Dr. Rahim Esfandyarpour, is the measurement of the energy production of immune cells in the blood.
The so-called & # 39; nano-electronic test & # 39; measures how much the energy output of these cells changes when exposed to stress, in this case modeled by salt.
In essence, more changes in the electrical activity or behavior of the cells when exposed to salt indicated, according to the researchers, the cells that are less healthy and resilient.
When they tested the blood of 40 test participants – 20 diagnosed with ME / CFS, 20 without – the results were as clear as the day.
Those with ME / CFS had very reactive blood, while healthy immune cells were much less disturbed by the salt stress.
& # 39; My daughter did not die from & # 39; hysteria & # 39; or & # 39; deconditioning & # 39 ;. She died as a result of multi-systemic neuro-immune ME. & # 39;
Merryn weighed less than six stones and spent the last three years of her life in bed bound with a serious form of the condition.
The would-be theater star could not take more than two teaspoons of food before suffering immense intestinal pain and vomiting.
She only became the second person in the UK to have ME noted on their death certificate. Merryn died days after her 21st birthday.
Mrs. Norton said: “Looking back, it is now almost two years since our darling Merryn died and a year ago that her investigation into her death was the cause of severe ME.
& # 39; We hoped that this statement would affect other coroners, doctors, and medical professionals to recognize how serious ME is – and that it could be fatal.
& # 39; It is shocking that Merryn is only the second person in the UK with ME as the official cause of death … no doubt others have died as a result of this cruel disease. & # 39;
& # 39; We need medical professionals to commit ME killings. For this we need more biomedical research, which in turn needs more money.
& # 39; To get more money, we need those in power to recognize how serious ME is, and so the vicious circle continues. & # 39;
She added: “Recently I was asked if Merryn was being diagnosed – eight years later – I think things would be different, would the treatment be better and would the stigma improve?
& # 39; Unfortunately my answer was & # 39; no & # 39 ;.
& # 39; Only this week I know two families who suffer from the lack of knowledge and stigma attached to ME.
& # 39; One whose mother is accused of inventing the disease and the daughter at risk of being segmented.
But her ruined mother, Clare Norton, says that the unjustified stigma and lack of knowledge about the cruel state remains a major problem (pictured before her death, Merryn, mother Clare, stepfather Dave Norton, and sister Amy Williams)
& # 39; The other family is threatened with fines for non-participation if their daughter is too sick to go to school every day. & # 39;
Mrs. Norton, from Rochdale, who used to work as an addiction expert, said she feels their pain and remembers what it's like to be misunderstood by the services that should help.
When she discussed the controversial PACE process, she asked how prescribing exercises once seemed like a good idea. She said: & # 39; It's like prescribing sugar to diabetics. & # 39;
& # 39; I see a convincing agreement between the study that links autism to the MMR vaccine and the PACE study.
& # 39; Both have been found to be defective in reanalysis, both have been published and supported by The Lancet, both have a devastating effect on health. & # 39;
Pathologist Dr. Daniel DuPlessis said at the time that a post-mortem from Merryn showed a low-grade inflammation of nerve roots.
It was suggested that this inflammation could have made her gut hypersensitive to nutrient processing.
Dr. DuPlessis pointed out that Merryn, who had been 23 last week, had an inflammation of the ganglia gatekeepers causing sensations in the brain.
A post-mortem in the only other British death attributed to ME, Sophia Mirza, 32, in 2006, also found ganglionitis.
ME expert at Salford Royal Hospital, Dr. Annice Mukherjee, said she was convinced that the disease was responsible for triggering Merryn's intestinal failure.
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