Understanding chronic fatigue

What is chronic fatigue?

Fatigue is central to many chronic and debilitating illnesses. It is also something that occurs when we are overcommitted, working too hard, or making too little time for relaxation. And fatigue is the central feature of a group of symptoms that together are known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as Post-Viral Fatigue Syndrome (PVFS) and Myalgic Encephalitis (ME). As a term, CFS is relatively new, but the illness itself was described more than a hundred years ago, when it was called neurasthenia.

Symptoms of CFS include the following:

  • A feeling of persistent and overwhelming fatigue which is unlike normal tiredness
  • Painful joints and muscles
  • Headaches and dizzyness
  • Sore throat
  • Pins and needles
  • Sensitivity to light and noise

Other symptoms may include inability to concentrate, poor sleep patterns and severe digestive disturbances such as bloating, nausea and loss of appetite. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be diagnosed in the presence of some of these symptoms, and is often thought to be the result of a past illness or infection.

How does CFS affect sufferers?

Symptoms vary between sufferers, and they may come and go. However, they are usually debilitating and lead many sufferers to make radical changes in their lifestyle.

This might mean:

  • Giving up work
  • Reducing or restricting leisure activities
  • Relinquishing or reducing responsibility for dependants

Many sufferers find their symptoms are made worse by physical and mental exertion.

The result of this disabling illness is often that people with CFS feel frustrated and helpless, and sometimes depressed.


Overcoming Chronic Fatigue is a self-help guide that can help you to manage your fatigue and overcome the restrictions upon your life that result from it. For more about the book >

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