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How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed and Treated

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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It is a normal reaction to feel exhausted after a stressful day at work, an intense workout, or because of lack of sleep. But if we talk about chronic fatigue syndrome, it is more than simply being exhausted. It is a persistent disorder that cannot be relieved by rest or managing one specific area of life.

The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome can frequently worsen after engaging in any physical or mental activity, making day-to-day living challenging. This post discusses this disorder and other relevant details.

Discuss your mental health concerns with a professional to find the right solution.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). It is a long-term condition characterized by extreme exhaustion that can be debilitating. Chronic fatigue symptoms last longer than six months and do not improve with rest.

The disease might make daily tasks, studies, and career challenging. At least one-quarter [1*] of CFS patients experience confinement to their homes or beds due to their condition.

How is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed?

Right now, no single standardized test for chronic fatigue syndrome is available. However, you may find many online chronic fatigue syndrome tests that can help you detect if you are at risk of the disorder.

Doctors can reach a diagnosis by a combination of methods, which include taking the medical history of the patient and obtaining details about their symptoms. These include the symptoms’ extent, severity, and duration. This information also helps to rule out other possible medical conditions that present similar symptoms.

Some physical medical tests are also carried out. In addition to this, the recognized diagnostic criteria for CFS developed by the Institute of medicine in 2015 [2*] are also utilized. The criteria require the presence of the following three symptoms for more than 6 months with moderate to severe intensity for at least 50% of the time.

  • Severe and persistent fatigue. It has a new or clear onset, is unrelated to exertion, is not alleviated by rest, is not caused by other reasons, and makes it difficult to carry out pre-illness activities.
  • Post-exertional malaise, which is the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion.
  • Unrefreshing sleep.

Furthermore, at least one of the following symptoms should also be present:

  • Cognitive impairment which involves problems with thinking or executive function that worsen by exertion, effort, stress, or time pressure.
  • Orthostatic intolerance which involves worsening of symptoms in an upright posture if held for long.

ME/CFS Symptoms

The symptoms of many health issues can be mistaken for CFS. However, medical guidelines allow doctors to diagnose this condition correctly. These include:

  • Extreme fatigue from any physical or mental activity.
  • Problems with memory or cognitive skills.
  • Dizziness that intensifies with sitting or standing and reduces when lying down.
  • Muscles or joints ache.
  • Unrefreshing sleep.
  • Headaches (especially migraines).
  • Tender lymph nodes or sore throat.
  • Digestion problems (nausea, vomiting, and irritable bowel syndrome).
  • Weakness.

Get personalized treatment for CFS-related depression or anxiety at the MEDvidi clinic.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

It is still unclear what causes chronic fatigue syndrome. A lot of factors could be at play:

  • There may be biological causes of CFS. It seems that developing chronic fatigue syndrome runs in families [3*] . As a result, certain people can have an increased risk of illness from birth.
  • After getting over a bacterial or viral infection, some people develop the signs of chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Both physical and emotional trauma [4*] may increase the chance of having CFS. Some sufferers assert that they had recent surgery, an injury, or significant mental stress before the commencement of their symptoms.
  • Researchers [5*] discovered variations between individuals with ME/CFS and healthy individuals in how their bodies’ cells obtain energy. To determine how these findings might be causing the sickness, more research is necessary.
How is chronic fatigue syndrome diagnosed

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment

The goal of treatment for CFS is to reduce symptoms. For example, managing sleep issues, depression, and pains frequently associated with CFS. The most annoying or incapacitating symptoms ought to be managed first. Moreover, any discovered comorbidity needs to be treated.

Treatment options include the following:

  • Therapy. Psychotherapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strongly emphasize how thinking affects people’s feelings and behavior. They can assist people with chronic fatigue syndrome in realizing how their anxieties about engaging in physical activity result in actions that eventually make them feel more worn out and impaired.
  • Exercise. Gradual increases in physical activity are part of graded exercise therapy, which aims to improve function. Being unwell limits activity levels and can cause deconditioning, exhaustion, pain, stiffness, anxiety, and depression. Exercise can help reverse this downward spiral by boosting the person’s fitness levels, lowering fatigue, pain, and stiffness, and improving mood.
  • Educational intervention. Patients with CFS who receive pragmatic therapy [6*] from specially trained nurses experience less fatigue. An agreed treatment plan of gradually increasing exercise is part of the strategy, including education about CFS. Although pragmatic rehabilitation is intriguing because it does not require professional advice, additional research is needed to assess whether or not it can continue to be beneficial.
  • Medications. Some medications can help with CFS symptoms. Analgesics for pain relief, antidepressants for people with anxiety and depression, stimulants to fight fatigue, and steroids for inflammation are a few examples.

Get personalized treatment plans based on your symptoms.

Summing Up

Each patient experiences symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome differently, but there are certain medical guidelines that help to make the right diagnosis. Although there is no treatment for CFS, there are over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may help along with psychotherapy and other interventions. Fatigue itself can be a symptom of different conditions, so if it lasts for a long time and disrupts your daily functioning, consider consulting a doctor. Keeping a health journal to record your activities, symptoms, and any changes in your energy level will help you prepare for an appointment with a health professional.


6 sources
  1. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
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  2. Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness. (2015)
    Source link
  3. Genetic risk factors for ME/CFS identified using combinatorial analysis. (2022)
    Source link
  4. Precipitating factors for the chronic fatigue syndrome. (1997)
    Source link
  5. Study finds differences in energy use by immune cells in ME/CFS. (2019)
    Source link
  6. Nurse led, home based self help treatment for patients in primary care with chronic fatigue syndrome: randomised controlled trial. (2010)
    Source link
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.