Myths about CFS

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a complex illness, characterised by overwhelming fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest. Often doing small tasks can leave a person with CFS feeling exhausted.

CFS is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), post-viral fatigue syndrome (PVS), chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) or Tapanui flu. It affects people in various ways and symptoms are similar to many other medical conditions. CFS can be difficult to diagnose.

Here we give the facts to debunk 5 common myths about chronic fatigue syndrome:

Myth 1. People with CFS are just tired

The facts: People with CFS experience overwhelming physical and mental exhaustion. This is different to how you feel after you've had a few nights poor sleep or the feeling you get after strenuous exercise. Just getting a good night’s sleep is not going to make them feel better. 

Myth 2. CFS is not a real disease

The facts: New research is starting to show that there may be changes at a cellular level in people with CFS.  

Myth 3. Not many people are affected by CFS

The facts: In New Zealand, approximate 16,000–20,000 people experience CFS, which means more people are affected by CFS than multiple sclerosis.

Myth 4. CFS only causes tiredness

The facts: CFS can cause other symptoms such as a sore throat, muscle pain, tender lymph nodes and impaired memory or concentration.

Myth 5. Only women get CFS

The facts: Men get CFS too, and children are also affected. The female to male ratio is 70:30 and the most common age of onset is 33–55 years.

Learn more

What is ME? The Associated New Zealand ME Society
What is ME/CFS? ME Auckland

Reviewed by

Dr Ros Vallings is a GP in Auckland. She runs a medical practice, where she specialises in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME) and related conditions. She runs seminars, gives papers at conferences, and has published books on this condition, as well as undertaking research and providing input to national and international guidelines.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Rosemary Vallings, Last reviewed: 22 Feb 2019