A more skeptical piece will note that many physicians consider ME/CFS to be psychological in nature. In and of itself this is a perfectly true and neutral statement: many physicians DO think it's all in patients' heads. Unfortunately, the writers almost never question this information, leaving the reader to believe that it's a matter of opnion—that there's no scientific evidence to prove those doctors wrong.
Other articles will mention that lots of people consider the disease controversial, but that now, in light of [insert most recent scientific discovery here], it looks like ME/CFS is actually a real thing! While this is better, such articles usually fail to mention all the previous research which also indicated that ME/CFS is actually a real thing.
With the publication (finally!) of the Alter et al paper, the language is becoming friendlier. Take this exposition from the New York Times:
Chronic fatigue syndrome, estimated to afflict at least one million Americans, has no known cause and no accepted diagnostic tests, although patients show signs of immunological, neurological and endocrinological abnormalities. Besides profound exhaustion, symptoms include sleep disorders, cognitive problems, muscle and joint pain, sore throat and headaches.Note the lack of the word "psychological." Note how the language implies that the failure to find a cause is merely a failure to find a cause, not a lack of a real effect.
And what about the visuals?
Traditionally, almost every time stock art has accompanied an article about ME/CFS, it's been a person (usually female) looking very sad and kind of tired, often with her head in her hands. Because people with "chronic fatigue syndrome" are really tired, and very sad about that ... right?
OK, I realize we can't blame the journalists too much for this one. They need some kind of picture to depict a disease with the name "fatigue" in it, and maybe that's as creative as they can be on tight deadlines. It just gets on my nerves.
The tired-sad-person photo hasn't vanished completely. However, with the release of a study about how murine leukemia viruses (MLVs) are linked to ME/CFS, papers now have a brand new go-to image!
Photo by animalphotos.info
It's a mouse virus! Get me a picture of a cute mouse!
I'm going to call this an improvement.