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The overload disease

There will never be an explanation for chronic fatigue syndrome

By Philippa Ingram   October 1998

At the end of the last century the maladie à la mode was a condition whose chief symptom was extreme fatigue. According to one account “subjects cannot complete the simplest act in one effort… without feeling insurmountable lassitude.” Patients also complained of headache, stomach upset and sensations of all kinds. Neurasthenia was put on the medical map by a New York neurologist, George Beard, in 1867. It spread rapidly, especially in France and Germany. Dr Adrien Proust, whose son Marcel was a lifelong neurasthenic, wrote one of the most popular texts on the subject.

Although physicians could find no objective signs…

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