ETCETERA / ANgST: Expert advice on your problems

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I have recently had ME diagnosed by my doctor: my symptoms are persistent fatigue which is not relieved by rest, muscle pain and sore glands, all of which are made worse by exertion. My memory and concentration are also impaired. The symptoms vary from day to day. My doctor has put me on antidepressants, which I am not altogether happy about as I don't believe I am depressed - just very fed up with feeling so awful. But I have to admit they have made me feel a little better. Can this be the case, and is there anything I can do to help my condition apart from spending so much time resting?

The problem with ME is that we don't know the cause and there is no known cure, so it is a question of finding the best ways we can to improve how a patient feels until the body recovers. We have found that antidepressants help some of the symptoms, but this does not mean the patient is being labelled depressed.

A programme of rest and stress reduction is important, and you may need to stop work for a while and make room for an activity which truly relaxes you - yoga, tai'chi, listening to music, meditation. You should also make room for good quality rest during each day.

If there are stressful personal problems, you need to find a way of reducing them. Try cutting down your yeast and refined sugar intake, which helps some ME sufferers. Others have benefited from magnesium injections, which you can ask your doctor about. Finally, have you checked whether you are reacting to things in the environment such as dust mites, pets, mould and pollens - all of which can stress out the immune system? Because there is no known cure, the best thing we can suggest is to try to unburden the body and help build up its strength in every possible way.

Dr David Collins, 25 St John Street, Manchester M3 4DT (061-834 9080).

My boyfriend is a great fan of Kim Basinger and when I said I wished I had a mouth like hers, he offered to pay for me to have a 'Paris Lip', as it is called in the magazines, done with collagen, as a birthday present. I quite like the idea but want to know whether it is safe before I try it.

We have not had any reports suggesting that collagen, a natural substance found in the body, is unsafe. It has been used for 10 years and more than a million people - 40,000 in Britain - have had collagen injections. But about 2 per cent of people are allergic, so it is important to have a test and to leave at least one month before having the full injection, or lip augmentation - which is the technical name for the 'Paris Lip'. The fact that it is temporary means you can try it out to see if you like the effect, knowing that if you don't it will not last forever. Lips can be made just a bit larger or they can be made very full and pouting, depending on how much collagen is used. We urge you not to try silicone, which is permanent, however much you like the effect, because this has been seen to have some very nasty side-effects. The manufacturers, Collagen (UK) Ltd, have a free information line on 0800 888000.

British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, Royal College of Surgeons, 35-43 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PN.

I am a 22-year-old student, and my best friend at university is a boy I have known for 10 years. However, after so long in a totally platonic relationship, my feelings have changed. I now wish my friend would make sexual advances and need to know if he is equally attracted to me.

Is this sudden need for sexual attention from your old friend possibly a compensatory one? I ask this because you don't mention any other loves in your life over the past 10 years. You clearly need to talk about your feelings. Many people feel that sex has to be excluded in order to maintain a good friendship. But your friendship has been so long and strong that you might be able to try a sexual relationship and, if it does not develop or feel right, still go back to the old friendship. A lot depends on how you talk to your friend, and whether he feels able to be honest with you about whatever he wants.

Anne Kemp, relationships counsellor (0223 277169).

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