Is It Depression Or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a multi-faceted condition which can include many of the symptoms of depression. Similarly, characteristics of depression may lead one to the conclusion that they have CFS. A proper diagnosis can be made when we examine the two conditions in more detail. This is important for establishing an effective course of treatment.

Characteristics of Depression

Depression can affect a person over the course of a lifetime and have physical and mental consequences. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help in alleviating some or many of these characteristic symptoms:

  • Feelings of disappointment, hopelessness and despair
  • Lack of interest in work, sex, and activities that usually bring one comfort, like sharing time with friends
  • Indecisiveness and loss of focus
  • Boredom or irritability
  • Suffering from consistent ailments such as headaches
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Feeling self-destructive or even suicidal

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome overview

According to experts, two standards must be met in order to diagnosis CFS:

  • A person must have CFS for a period of at least six months without factoring other clinically diagnosed medical conditions.
  • At least four symptoms must be present during these six months: cognitive difficulties; soreness of the muscles; sleep that doesn't bring refreshment; tiredness after exertion continuing more than 24 hours; pain in various joints that doesn't involve redness or swelling; sensitive lymph nodes; throat soreness; unusual headaches.

Symptoms of CFS

There are other symptoms of CFS, and they vary from patient to patient:

  • Chronic mental and physical exhaustion, increased after engaging in an activity
  • Pain in the abdomen, chest, jaw or ears
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats and insomnia
  • Inability to tolerate alcohol or other chemicals, such as caffeine
  • Skin sensations including tingling
  • Respiratory problems

The direct causes of CFS are still unclear, and the condition can come on suddenly, or over time, often as a result of another medical condition, like Lyme disease. This controversial link is currently being researched.

Differences between CFS and depression

There are undeniable similarities between CFS and depression, but research consistently indicates some important differences which characterize CFS as a bio-physical condition which may be caused by a viral infection. Following are some noteworthy differences:

  • In terms of exercise, those who are depressed seem to improve their condition when incorporating exercise into their daily routine. In CFS, a person may be willing to exercise, but their body cannot tolerate it.
  • CFS sufferers commonly have other afflictions associated with the condition, such as fibromyalgia and sensitivity to chemicals. The link is being investigated.
  • Those who have depression may have difficulty sleeping, but CFS has been related to a dysfunction of deep-sleep patterns of the brain.
  • A suppressed immune system is a common symptom of CFS, including fevers and flu, and chronic muscle pain.

Concluding: Depression or CFS?

There is a lot of overlap in the symptoms of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, and some similar general recommendations for treatment. However, CFS continues to elude doctors and scientists in terms of direct causes, particularly in terms of its viral implications, which are not associated with depression. A proper diagnosis is needed in order to adequately treat the condition.


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