Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients experience a fatigue severe enough to cause them to substantially cut down their work, educational and/or social activities. The Centers For Disease Control calls this fatigue ‘severe, incapacitating, and all-encompassing‘. At its most severe it can leave chronic fatigue syndrome patients house or bed-bound.

A recent study also found that chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients experience four kinds of fatigue that healthy people do not.

Hot Point: 

Studies suggest that two problems; greatly increased fatigue and other symptoms after physical and/or mental activity i.e. post-exertional malaise) and problems with memory and concentration are the hallmark symptoms of ME/CFS.

Several types of fatigue have been found in CFS.  (The only kind of fatigue regularly felt in the general population is the last; flu-like fatigue)

  • ‘Post-exertional fatigue (or malaise)’ occurs after physical or mental exertion; it is considered a hallmark symptom of this disease.
  • ‘Brain fog’ – involves having difficulty with words and concentration; it is considered a hallmark symptom of this disease
  • ‘Wired But Tired fatigue’ – is characterized by low energy levels accompanied by a feeling of over stimulation
  • Molasses Fatigue’ – is characterized by a feeling of heaviness in the limbs
  •  Flu-like fatigue

Besides Fatigue ME/CFS Patients Can Also Experience

Problems Getting a Good Nights Sleep

Almost all chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients experience unrefreshing sleep and/or reduced or increased levels of sleep.

Problems ‘Thinking’

Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) patients almost universally report more difficulty with thinking including slowed understanding, trouble finding or saying words, trouble with writing, reading and mathematics, inability to keep track of things, short term memory problems and poor concentration. For some CFS patients this is the most disturbing part of CFS.

Problems with Perception

This includes loss of depth perception, inability to follow quickly moving objects, problems while walking.

Problems with Muscle Coordination

such as muscle weakness, muscle twitches, poor coordination, difficulty with everyday activities such as brushing teeth, dialing the telephone, etc.


Many CFS patients report having headaches, shoulder and neck pain and muscle pain. They tend to demonstrate a lower pain threshold (allodynia), have tender points and/or myofascial trigger points in their muscles and joint pain without joint swelling.

Problems with ‘Overload ‘

such as hypersensitivity to light, sound, odors, vibration, speed, reduced multi-tasking ability, difficulty making decisions, motor overload – increased clumsiness, etc. when fatigued, dizziness, numbness, tingling, nausea are often found.

Nervous System Symptoms

such as difficulty standing (orthostatic intolerance), rapid heartbeat and/or reduced blood pressure resulting in dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headaches, sweating, pallor, mottling in lower limbs, etc. particularly during standing, palpitations, breathing dysregulation (breath holding, irregular breathing, exercise induced shortness of breath), irritable bowel syndrome (constipation, diarrhea, cramping, bloating and/or nausea), visual disturbances, burning sensations, chest pain can be found.

Hormonal Type Symptoms

such as increased or reduced body temperature, hot/cold feelings, intolerance of weather extremes, feverishness, sweating episodes, weight gain or weight loss, anxiety or panic attacks, alcohol intolerance often occur.

Immune System Symptoms

such as sore throat, tender lymph nodes, fever, muscle and joint pains, new sensitivities to food, drugs and/or chemicals are common.

Problems With Mood

such as irritability, depression and/or anxiety are common.


CFIDS Association of America: Symptoms 2007.

Defining and Distinguishing Types of Fatigue. Porter, Nicole. International Association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Conference Jan 13-17, 2007, Fort Lauderdale, Fl.

Carruthers, B., Jain, A., De Meirleir, K., Peterson, D., Klimas, N., Lerner, M., Bested, A., Flor-Henry, P., Joshi, P., Powles, A., Sherkey, J., van de Sande, M. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 11: 7-37, 2003. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Clinical Working Case Definition.



{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Oliver February 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I have M.E. with a proven reduced mitochondrial function (ATP reduction) and the worst symptom is ‘flu like symptoms which worsen dramatically with mental or physical exertion (or anxiety or stress of any kind). Although this is not the only symptom – this is the one that stops me from doing anything at all for longer than 10 minutes at a time. A trip to the doctors for revised prescription resulted in needing to sleep for 90 minutes at 11.00 am in the morning. The pain is all over in the sense that I am nearly passing out from the intensity of it after walking for 10 minutes. Why is this symptom so little mentioned on this site. If it wasn’t for this – I could cope somehow.


Molly Malone March 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I don’t know if this will help anyone, but Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum has a book called From Fatigued to Fantastic which may help. He has many solutions from natural to over the counter to prescription for each facet and you get to make the choices for your own treatment. I am just beginning to read and learn, but the 2 things I am doing [ribose helps with mitochondria energy] are helping a bit. Nothing ‘magical’ but any help is better than none and far better than getting worse!
Blessings to all!


Morag Harrhy June 26, 2014 at 7:56 am

I am 60years old and my GP thinks I am suffering fromCFS,I always thought that this was an affliction of the young,any help please!


Lara August 4, 2014 at 9:42 am

CFS/ME does not discriminate based on age. Make sure your doctor has ruled out other possible causes of fatigue. This should include blood tests that check for Vitamin D, Iron/ferritin, coeliac disease, blood sugar levels/diabetes, thyroid disease – more common with age, and electrolyte levels. Keep on asking questions.
Get all your hormone levels checked as well to see if this is the cause of your problems.
You might also want to try an elimination diet challenge in case you are sensitive to food chemicals. The failsafe and RPAH protocols are popular, as are the FODMAP protocols.
Your doctor may be correct. If in doubt consider a second opinion.
Make sure that you are eating well and consider seeing a dietician/allergy expert for advice.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. Consult with a qualified and trusted medical professional/s for advice and treatment plans.


Michelle B. October 29, 2014 at 11:12 am

Living with CFS is absolutely horrible. Horrible!


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