Edited by Christy
was answered by Linda Miller Iger, PhD, a psychologist from Laguna Beach, CA who
has a special interest in CFIDS.
Question: Exams are
coming up. What are some good tips on how to effectively study and remember the
material I need to know? Also, my train of thought often drifts while I am
working. How can I prevent that from occurring?
Reply: No matter what age you are, studying
when you have chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) is very
daunting. It often seems that preparing for tests or finals is too overwhelming
to accomplish, but there is hope. First, it must be noted that during times of
acute stress, such as that of studying for a major exam, sleep disorders can
occur. As a result, it is imperative to get as much rest as possible. A young
person with CFIDS (YPWC) should never do an all-night cram. When anyone
is sleep-deprived, whether healthy or chronically ill, it is extremely difficult
to think or to have clarity of thought.
Second, the answer to remembering material
lies in looking at how mental processing ability is compromised in a person with
CFIDS. Think of the mind in terms of how a computer processes information. The
overall processing of information in a healthy person and a YPWC is the same,
but the actual processes take longer in a YPWC. It is as if the computer in
which the CFIDS student processes information is slower than that of a healthy
person. Therefore, in order to study better, a YPWC needs to give the brain more
cues when trying to recall information.
For example, try to think in terms of
things that are different or meaningful to you. This form of studying is one way
that a CFIDS student will better recollect material.
Some text notes are not easily absorbed.
These notes should be written on a yellow legal pad of paper, since YPWCs
sometimes seem to easily misplace things. The yellow color provides intensity
and brings attention to itself, so that a student is less likely to lose his or
her notes. Use one or both sides of the legal page. Then, the student should
read and say the notes out-loud. Rewriting the notes is also a good way to help
remember material. This method of studying involves the visual, kinesthetic and
auditory methods of learning. It helps to lay the memory down and bypass
The night before a major exam, it is
strongly recommended that the CFIDS student write out answers to the questions
he or she thinks will be asked — sort of like pretending to write his or her own
exam. By doing this the student will be forced to think like the instructor.
Then, after completing and checking the practice exam, the correct answers to
missed questions should be written on the legal pad and studied.
There is probably nothing anyone can
do to prevent a YPWC’s train of thought from drifting. A difference between a
healthy student and a CFIDS student is the shorter amount of time that a YPWC
can hold and maintain attention. Instead of trying to force the brain to keep
paying attention, simply take a break, shut the eyes, cool down and refocus. Do
not force the brain into overload. Hopefully these tips will help YPWCs who are
studying in school. Remember, CFIDS students are just as capable as healthy
students. Don’t give up!