What is M.E.?

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Severe M.E.

Severe M.E.

Around one in four people with M.E. can become severely affected by the condition. They are often unable to leave the house or their bed, and accessing appropriate care and support can be a challenge. Action for M.E.’s 2019 Big Survey of more than 4,000 people with M.E. found that:

  • 95% of respondents with severe M.E. said they had stopped or reduced household tasks
  • 98% had stopped or reduced social contact
  • 66% require full or part-time care
  • 59% were no longer able to leave their home independently.

Severe M.E. has a considerable impact on the whole family. One Big Survey respondent told us:

"My youngest daughter does not know me without M.E. I spend the majority of my time in my bedroom, alone. I would only see the children for one minute a day with an hour gap in between for me to rest. I spend very little time with my wife and children."

Find out more in our two-page explainer on severe M.E.

Hear from people with M.E. and health professionals in the Dialogues for ME/CFS film series about severe M.E.


Healthcare for severe M.E.

The October 2021 NICE guideline for M.E./CFS describes four levels of severity of M.E./CFS, and offers specific guidance for caring for people with severe or very severe M.E./CFS.

This includes advice on:

  • awareness of severe and very severe M.E./CFS and its impact#
  • assessment and care and support planning by an M.E./CFS specialist team
  • access to care and support, including hospital care
  • managing M.E./CFS, including energy and symptom management, and dietary strategies.

The guideline says:

"Service providers should be proactive and flexible in delivering services to people with severe or very severe M.E./CFS, who may have particular difficulty accessing services and articulating their needs. This could include home visits, online or phone consultations, supplying written communication, and supporting their applications for aids and appliances."


How we can help

We work collaboratively with professionals to raise awareness and increase understanding of M.E., including severe M.E. If you have severe M.E., we offer a number of different services that you and those supporting you may find useful.

  • We can offer information, support and signposting to services that can help you and/or your carers. We are also able to offer individual advocacy, supporting you or your child with M.E. to have your voice heard and access health, care and education you're entitled to. Contact our Information, Advocacy and Support Service today.
  • Our Healthcare Services team includes a doctor, physiotherapists, counsellors and chaplains, offering individually tailored whole-person care, with an understanding of severe M.E. As a charity, we charge fees for our Healthcare Services only to cover our costs, and a bursary for up to 50% of fees may be available, depending on your circumstances.
  • If you are able to use a device to get online, even if only for a short amount of time, our free, supportive M.E. Friends Online forum offers friendship and understanding in a safe space.
  • Emily Collingridge’s book Severe M.E./CFS: a guide to living offers guidance on every aspect of life with severe M.E. It’s aimed at families and professionals, and the author herself lived with severe M.E. for many years. In her first chapter, Emily says:
“Patients with severe M.E. are vulnerable and in need of a great deal of practical help, emotional support and comfort from others. However, it is possible for patients to take control of their lives and the management of their condition, to achieve mental/emotional independence and to guide others in providing the personalised care that they need.”


Other support available

There have been almost no biomedical research studies on severe M.E, so we know very little about its biology, and what treatment or management approaches might be helpful.

If you are unable to get to the surgery because you feel too ill to leave your home, your GP may agree to visit you at home. It may be helpful to discuss this with your GP on the telephone or get a friend to do this for you.

Local social services/social work departments are responsible for providing home care services for people who need help with washing and dressing. Home care may also be called home help, social care or community care. Your GP can refer you for an assessment or you can contact your local department for an assessment yourself.