How Do I Know If I've Got Chronic Fatigue?

Reviewed on 12/16/2022

Is There a Test to Diagnose Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Woman with chronic fatigue sitting on couch and holding head in hand
There is no specific test for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). It is diagnosed by ruling out other illnesses, such as thyroid conditions, mononucleosis (“mono”), Lyme disease, and others.

Feeling tired all the time is called fatigue or exhaustion, which is when tiredness is overwhelming and is not relieved with rest. Tiredness is usually able to be alleviated with rest. 

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also called systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) and previously called chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), is different from tiredness in that it is a chronic disorder characterized by several debilitating symptoms including severe fatigue

It may be difficult to know if you’ve got chronic fatigue as the symptoms of CFS/SEID are similar to a number of other conditions, many of which go away on their own. It is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis to find out what is causing your symptoms. 

There is no specific test for CFS/SEID. It is diagnosed through exclusion, that is, ruling out other illnesses with similar symptoms, such as:

19 Chronic Fatigue Symptoms

Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome may include:

  • Extreme tiredness
    • Feeling tired all the time 
    • Difficulty performing daily activities due to tiredness
    • Still feeling tired after rest or sleep
  • Needing a long time to recover from physical activity
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems with thinking, memory, and concentration
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sore throat
  • Dizziness 
  • Feeling unwell (malaise)
  • Fast or irregular heartbeats (palpitations)

In addition to prolonged fatigue, patients must have four or more of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome/systemic exertion intolerance disease: 

What Causes Chronic Fatigue?

The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) are unknown but suggested causes include: 

Risk factors for developing CFS/SEID include: 

  • Family member with the condition
  • Female gender
    • Females are four times more likely to develop CFS/SEID
  • Age 40s and 50s

What Is the Treatment for Chronic Fatigue?

There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome/systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) and the goal of treatment is to manage symptoms.

Treatment may involve a combination of modalities, such as: 

  • Medication
  • Lifestyle changes 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Reviewed on 12/16/2022
Image source: iStock Images