Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome

The symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) vary from person to person, and generally there may be good periods and bad periods.

There may be times when your symptomsimprove and you'll be able to do many normal everyday activities. At other times, symptoms may flare up and get worse, affecting your daily life.


The main symptom of CFS is persistent physical and mental fatigue (exhaustion). This doesn'tgo away with sleep or rest and limits your usual activities.

Most people with CFS describe this fatigue as overwhelming and a different type of tiredness from whatthey've experienced before.

Exercising can make symptoms worse. This is called post-exertional malaise, or "payback". The effect of this is sometimes delayed for example, if you were to play a game of sport, the resulting fatigue may not develop untila few hours afterwards, or even the next day.

People with severe CFSare unable to do any activities themselves or can only carry outsimple daily tasks, such as brushing their teeth. They're sometimes confined to their bed and areoften unable to leave their house.

Other symptoms

There areother common symptoms as well as fatigue,although most people don't have all of them. They include:

  • muscular pain, joint pain and severe Headaches
  • poor short-term memory and concentration, and difficulty organising thoughts and finding the right words ("brain fog")
  • painful lymph nodes (small glands of the immune system)
  • stomach painand other problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome , such as bloating, constipation , diarrhoea and nausea
  • sore throat
  • sleeping problems, such as insomnia and feeling that sleep isn't refreshing
  • sensitivity or intolerance to light, loud noise, alcohol and certain foods
  • psychological difficulties, such as depression , irritability and panic attacks
  • less common symptoms, such as dizziness , excess sweating, balance problems and difficulty controlling body temperature
Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 14 Apr 2015