Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any other medical condition.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causes extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any other medical condition.
beginning of content

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)

3-minute read

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as Myalgic Encephalitis (ME), is an illness that affects the nervous system. It causes extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by any other medical condition. If you have CFS/ME you are likely to feel very tired, very often, even if you have not been active. You may also have a host of other symptoms.

Doctors do not yet understand the cause or causes of CFS/ME, and there is no simple cure. But if you or your child has CFS/ME, your doctor can suggest treatments you may find helpful.

Symptoms and diagnosis

The most common symptom is ongoing, unexplained tiredness which may be accompanied by:

This tiredness may be your only symptom, or you may also have any or all of the other symptoms.

Some people experience mild symptoms, and others more intense symptoms.

There is no single test to diagnose CFS/ME. Your doctor will diagnose CFS/ME based on your symptoms and how long you have had them.Your doctor may do some tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms before diagnosing CFS/ME.

Patients can be diagnosed with CFS/ME only after they have had symptoms for six months or more.

Check your symptoms with healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

Managing your symptoms

It may help if you:

  • relax as much as possible
  • try to go to bed at the same time each night and limit daytime napping
  • limit your activity, even on good days - otherwise you may have more days when you are exhausted
  • pace yourself - keep your activity level even
  • avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and anything else that could affect your sleep.

Your doctor can also suggest treatments such as:

  • medicines – for depression if you are feeling depressed, or pills to help you sleep soundly at night
  • gentle graded exercise – which means you try different types of exercise that suit you, and increase the level of activity when you are ready
  • psychological counseling
  • cognitive behavioural therapy.

Any suggested treatments for your symptoms will aim to make you physically, mentally or emotionally stronger. There is no simple cure. Any commercially available product or treatment promoted as a cure for CFS/ME should be treated with caution.

Your doctor may also suggest working with other healthcare professionals such as a psychologist and physical therapist.

You may want to talk to your doctor about how to manage work or school commitments while you are sick and when you feel you might be ready to return. Try to pace your activities so that you do not spend more energy than you have while you are ill.

Last reviewed: February 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) information | myVMC

Chronic fatigue syndrome refers to disabling fatigue and pain for six months or longer, often after flu-like illness. The cause is unknown.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Chronic fatigue syndrome -

All about chronic fatigue syndrome - symptoms, cause, diagnosis and treatment, as well as support and self-help.

Read more on myDr website

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sleep

People with CFS are more than “just tired”. They suffer from an intense fatigue and exhaustion that won’t go away. Physical or mental activity can make their CFS symptoms worse.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Chronic fatigue syndrome in teenagers | Raising Children Network

Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis makes people feel tired all the time. Read how individual treatment plans can help with CFS symptoms.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Chronic fatigue syndrome: Dr Joe Kosterich | myVMC

Dr Joe discusses chronic fatigue syndrome, including diagnosis and management of the condition.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Chronic fatigue syndrome - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Fatigue | National Centre for Farmer Health

Fatigue can lead to serious risks for farmers. Fatigue can have both physical and mental causes and can be described as a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness. Its not the same as feeling drowsy, or tired after a busy day. Its more a feeling of pushing yourself through the day, every day. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Fatigue | enableme - stroke recovery and support

Fatigue is common after stroke, fifty percent of survivors in one study said tiredness was their main problem twelve months on. What can you can do to better manage fatigue

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Glandular fever -

Find out about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) - sometimes called the kissing disease.

Read more on myDr website

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Sleep is important to health and well-being. Sleep health is vital to good health. A lack of sleep affects mood, concentration, memory, weight, driving skills, and quality of life. Important things about daytime sleepiness. Medical sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea (apnea), insomnia, snoring, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep is a major cause of lost productivity and accidents in the workplace, road and at home. Sleep is one of the pillars of good health.

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo