stimulant medications?

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New Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/9/2007 6:51 AM (GMT -6)   
Do stimulant medications help people with CFS?

Yesterday I visited a new psychiatrist, and in talk about the fatigue I've been dealing with for years, she mentioned CFS as a possibility. I've looked into many different possible causes for the issues I've been having, but yesterday was the first day I read up on CFS. I've had a lot of different theories about what could be "wrong" with me (the one I'm currently being tested for so I can rule out is Narcolepsy), but for every single one of them, there were things that didn't fit... symptoms that were either present that it didn't explain or symptoms that should have been present that weren't. This is the first theory I've ever looked into where everything fits and makes perfect sense. I was pretty upset yesterday... I've been telling myself for 6 years that it won't always be this way, that someday I'll be on top of things and will be able to live the lifestyle I want to live and actually be *me*. I've been telling myself that it's just taking a little longer than I thought it would to recover from the illness/surgery/accident, that it's just stress and that once I get my life in order I'll be fine, that if I was correctly diagnosed and treated I'll feel great, that if I ate healthier and exercised regularly I'd feel tons better (though I've tried multiple times and have never been able to pull this off)... pretty much that when I could afford to live a healthier and less stressful lifestyle, things would be fine.

People around me tell me that there's nothing wrong with me, that I just need to eat healthier and be more active. They don't seem to understand that I'd give anything to be able to do so... but it's just not that simple. I know they mean well, but what I hear when they say that is, "It's your fault that you feel this way, and if you actually *wanted* to feel better you would." :(

I've been taking stimulants on and off (most on) for the past 5 years, and while I'm still not able to function the way I feel I should be able to, the way others can, it does make a big difference. The first stimulant I started taking was ephedrine + caffeine. Obviously I couldn't continue that non stop, but if you add up all of the time I was on it, it's probably about a year and a half. Then a few years ago I was diagnosed with adult ADD. I sought this diagnosis because I wanted medication that would make it possible for me to keep up with housework, at least reasonably well. :( Since then I've been on either Adderall of Concerta (ritalin, essentially) most of the time.

Okay, so here's the question: Would stimulant medications help me if I had CFS? Or does the fact that they do help a bit suggest that I don't have CFS?

New Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/9/2007 7:08 AM (GMT -6)   
I started seeing a sleep doctor due to insomnia and fatigue, and he referred me to a sleep psychologist. I started getting up at the same time everyday. Here's something I wrote about a week ago, before considering CFS as a possibility.

[quote]Things are going both good and bad for me right now. I have no trouble waking up on time or getting to sleep at night, but I feel like I could fall asleep standing up from about 3 to 6:00 pm until I go to sleep (earlier if I don't take my second dose of adderall). By the time my head hits the pillow, it's more like I'm passing out than falling asleep. Other people comment that I look like I'm about to fall asleep, blah, or really tired when they see me. I'm also having some memory problems even during the day. I'll think that I should do something and I go to do it, but then realize that I already have. I have difficulty talking to people because I can't find the words I'm looking for and forget what I was saying. This is especially troublesome when I'm working because my job requires a lot of technical knowledge, and people often ask me questions that require use of this technical knowledge.

It has been like this for years, even before I started taking Adderall. If I don't take some sort of stimulant, I have a very hard time functioning (this is why I used to take ephedrine). It's like I have no life skills. I lack the energy and alertness and motivation to take care of every day chores and errands. Even the simplest things like taking a shower or eating seem like they would take a WHOLE lot of effort. Working full time is next to impossible. I see doctors for fatigue, and after testing for anemia, thyroid problems, diabetes, etc. they say I'm probably depressed. I've experienced depression to varying degrees, and this is not like that. I'm just sooooooooo exhausted and out of it. Sometimes I feel weak too, for example having to ask for help opening something that most people shouldn't have any trouble with at all. My life starts to fall apart, and that's when I cave and start taking a stimulant again. I can once again function (until it wears off for the day), but after a while I start to fear for my short and long term health and feel guilty about being dependent on stimulants. I then decide that if I could just go without them long enough, and eat right and exercise and go to bed early, I wouldn't need to take stimulants. The cycle starts over again.

Then a few days ago I wrote this (also before considering CFS as a possibility):

[quote]I've seen doctors over the past few years because of fatigue, but the tests I've gone to the doctor to get have all come back normal... multiple tests for thyroid problems, diabetes, and anemia, an MRI to look for MS, growth hormone deficiency, etc.

- extreme fatigue and tiredness
- asking a question, and then forgetting the answer and asking again once or twice more a few minutes later
- asking a question, and then forgetting that I even asked it and asking again once or twice more a few minutes later
- weight gain
- a "double chin", sometimes worse than other times
- losing things
- confused mental state, sometimes more so than others
- remembering that I'm supposed to do something and then going to do it, only to find I already did (mostly at work)
- thinking that I'm supposed to do something and then being reminded that I don't need to because of other factors involved (mostly at work)
- often feeling very out of it, foggy
- forgetting what I was about to say or even in the middle of saying
- not knowing how to communicate something that shouldn't be difficult to communicate
- having a hard time finding words, especially work related technical terminology
- chronic low grade fever that's usually but not always there
- off and on chills
- off and on blurry vision
- double vision in one eye, especially with lights (might be unrelated)

What I didn't include is how I frequently get mild headaches pretty frequently, usually attributing them to waiting too long to eat, and how I often have a mild sore throat and mildly sore and swollen glands under my jaw (thus the "double chin" that comes and goes). I generally assume that I'm fighting off some sort of infection and start taking a bunch of zinc and vitamin C. I usually don't actually get sick when this happens. I asked my boyfriend how often I say, "I think I'm coming down with something", and he said once or twice a week. :-S

New Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/9/2007 7:10 AM (GMT -6)   
After the psychiatrist mentioned CFS and I looked into it, I found these checklists for risk and diagnostic criteria:


__x__ Female gender
____ A family history of CFS or fibromyalgia
__x__ Having a family or personal history of other conditions, including:
__?__ Irritable Bowel Syndrome
____ Endometriosis
____ Thyroid disease – hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism
__x__ Mood disorder
__x__ Chronic or persistent nasal symptoms/sinusitis/sinus infections
____ Ear infections (particularly with CFS)
____ Hysterectomy (particularly with CFS)
__x__ Miscarriage
__x__ Irregular Menstrual Cycle
____ Ovarian Cysts
__?__ Mononucleosis/Glandular fever
____ Epstein-Barr Virus

____ Having had a recent infection
__x__ Family or personal history of autoimmune disease.
__x__ Physical Injuries/Trauma
____ Hypermobile Joints
____ Toxic Exposures
__x__ Severe Life Stress
__x__ Type A Personality
____ Recent Immunizations/Vaccinations
____ Use of medications/drugs known to have a link to CFS/Fibromyalgia (full overview provided in Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia )


CFS Symptoms -- Official Criteria

The official criteria for CFS include the following symptoms:

__x__ Fatigue that is medically unexplained; of new onset; lasts at least six months; is not the result of ongoing exertion; is not substantially relieved by rest; and causes a substantial reduction in activity levels.

Plus, four or more of the following symptoms:
__x__ substantially impaired memory/concentration
__x__ sore throat
__x__ tender neck or armpit lymph nodes
__x__ muscle pain
__?__ headaches of a new type, pattern or severity
__x__ unrefreshing sleep
__x__ relapse of symptoms after exercise (also known as post-exertional malaise) that lasts more than 24 hours
____ pain in multiple joints without joint swelling or redness.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2005
Total Posts : 5403
   Posted 5/9/2007 3:30 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi charismatic_irony and welcome. I'm sorry that you have been having symptoms for so long and that you really haven't gotten any answers. A lot of times when docs can't figure out what is wrong, they like to suggest that depression is causing all the symptoms. I was like you and knew that I wasn't depressed and that the only reason my mood was down at all was because I didn't have the energy to do the things I loved to do.

I can't really be of much help with stimulants and cfs - I haven't read anything about it, but it's something to talk to your doctor about.

In your checklist, you have a lot of symptoms of cfs, so it does look very possible that you could have it. I'm not a medical professional at all, but when I first got lupus symptoms, my doctor talked to me about the possibility of having MS, which fortunately I didn't have. SOme symptoms of MS do include blurry vision, weakness and some cognitive problems (brain fog, memory, etc) and MS can cause severe fatigue. It's worth talking to your doctor about if you haven't already.

As you can see, it's so hard to diagnose diseases with these symptoms because they are present in a lot of illnesses and it can be a long road by using the process of elimination.

Let us know if you have other questions. I'm glad you joined us and hope that you'll find support here.

Take care
Diagnosis:  UCTD (lupus) 2006; Raynauds 2006; Sjogren's 2006; lupus symptoms began 2003; CFS 1991; Mono 1985
Meds:  Plaquenil 400mg; Prednisone 5-10mg; Tramadol 100mg 3-4x daily; Amitriptyline 10mg; Neurontin 300mg; Prevacid; Steriod Cream and Mouth Rinse for tongue and mouth ulcers; Hydrocodone 5/500 prn for severe pain; Restasis eye drops



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New Member

Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 6
   Posted 5/10/2007 9:15 AM (GMT -6)   
Thanks Hippimom2. I have had an MRI to look for signs of MS, and there weren't any. I have a sleep study coming up in a few weeks, so maybe I'll get some answers there. I can't believe I'm saying this... I hope I have narcolepsy!
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