Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Mental or Physical?

Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2022
Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Mental or Physical
Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a mental disorder but a physical one

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is considered a physical condition and not a psychological disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, and International Classification of Diseases-10 use the idea of psychological causation as part of the criteria to distinguish mental disorders from physical disorders.

There is no concrete evidence that CFS is caused by psychological factors. Therefore, CFS cannot be defined as a mental illness.

What is chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), commonly called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a chronic, complex, and debilitating illness that impacts various systems in the body, including the neurological system and immune system.

Although the specific cause of CFS is still unknown, many people begin to experience symptoms after experiencing viral or other types of infection, surgery, physical trauma, or hormonal changes.

Signs and symptoms of CFS are probably brought on by an unusual immunological response, which typically occurs in response to an infection. The brain and other systems of the body may be affected, causing many to be unable to engage in their normal activities. Some may even be bedridden as a result of the disorder.

What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?

Post-exertional malaise (PEM) is the primary symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). It is characterized by an increase in symptoms and a decrease in function following light exercise or mental stimulation. The term “rash” or “payback” is used to describe this occasionally.

People with CFS can suffer a wide range of symptoms because it is a chronic, multisystem illness that is extremely complex. Not all people will exhibit all symptoms, and not all of them are necessary for diagnosis. Typical signs include:


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What is living with chronic fatigue like?

According to studies, people with chronic fatigue syndrome CFS have different physical reactions to movement or exercise compared to healthy individuals. This includes unnatural fatigue following any type of physical or mental activity that would not have been problematic before acquiring ME/CFS.

The level of effort that triggers PEM varies with the severity of the illness and can change over time. It can be difficult to determine how much activity is too much because the response may not appear for 24 or 48 hours. PEM can last a few days or have major relapses that last weeks, months, or even years depending on the type and amount of exercise or activity.

Simple tasks, such as taking a quick stroll, going for coffee with a friend, or commuting to work may become extremely difficult or impossible to complete. Sometimes, one activity may be fine, but adding another may be too much and lead to PEM.

What is the root cause of chronic fatigue syndrome?

There is no known cause of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing the disorder, which is later brought on by various factors:

  • Physical or emotional trauma: Some claim that just before their symptoms started, they experienced an injury, surgery, or substantial emotional stress.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Hormone levels in the blood may be abnormal in people with CFS. It is not yet clear what these anomalies mean.
  • Viral infections: Researchers have considered whether certain viruses could cause CFS because some people experience it after a viral infection. The Epstein-Barr virus and human herpes virus 6 are two suspect viruses. However, no concrete link has yet been discovered.
  • Immune system problems: People with CFS seem to have modestly compromised immune systems, but it is not understood if this is enough to cause the condition.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/9/2022
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Chronic fatigue syndrome (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis).

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a physical, not psychological malady, study shows.

Myalgic Encephalomyelitis ("Chronic Fatigue Syndrome").

Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome.

Patient education: Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (Beyond the Basics).

Physical or mental? A perspective on chronic fatigue syndrome.