Top 10 Urban Myths About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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You Won’t Believe What People Say About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a badly misunderstood illness, it can take time to get a diagnosis and no specific treatment is readily available. Many studies have been carried out in an effort to find one identifiable cause.

However, it is a multi factorial illness that seems to affect each sufferer differently. Despite many studies, finding only one identifiable cause of this illness is proving difficult, it may even be impossible.

There are many myths that exist about chronic fatigue syndrome and some of them make it difficult for sufferers to be taken seriously and get the right help for this debilitating illness.

In this article, I’m listing the top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndrome I was faced with during the many years I had the illness.

Myth # 1 – You Are Just A Bit Tired

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeIf I had a penny for every time somebody said this to me…….Chronic fatigue syndrome is not simply a feeling of tiredness. Without chronic fatigue syndrome you feel tired, you get some sleep and your energy returns.

With chronic fatigue syndrome you are completely exhausted and that feeling is not relieved by sleep. Every day it feels like you have the flu and it’s difficult to summon enough energy to even swing your legs over the side of the bed and stand up.

Daily activities can be severely restricted, even standing up under the shower can be too much for many people. Others who are badly affected find it difficult to move at all.

A trip to the bathroom might involve crawling on all fours to get there as the sufferer lacks the energy to stand upright. The illness affects sufferers to different degrees with some people being mildly incapacitated and others being completely bedridden unable to do anything for themselves. Obviously, this is more than being ‘just a bit tired’.

Myth # 2 – You Just Need A Good Night’s Sleep

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeUsually for chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers, a good night’s sleep is very difficult to achieve. Insomnia and sleep problems are common.

Even after a full night’s sleep of around 8 hours, chronic fatigue sufferers experience non refreshing sleep.

On waking up, you feel just as exhausted as before you went to sleep. Often you have difficulty getting to sleep or wake many times during the night. Muscle and joint pain can contribute to sleep disturbance too. So ‘a good night’s sleep’ is impossible to achieve.

Myth # 3 – You Need To Get More Exercise

top 10 urba mths about chronic fatigue syndromeDepending on the stage of your chronic fatigue syndrome, exercise is more than likely the last thing you need. In fact, it can be so detrimental that only a few minutes exercise can cause a crash resulting in several days in bed to recover.

Advice from well-meaning friends, family members and even doctors can be to ‘exercise your way out of your tiredness’.

But chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers need to stay within their own personal ‘energy envelope’ to manage the limited energy their body has available, or risk having a crash and suffering post exertional malaise. Find information on yoga that can be beneficial here.

Myth # 4 – You Don’t Look Sick So There Can’t Be Anything Wrong With You

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeOf course, many sufferers who are badly affected by chronic fatigue syndrome are bedridden and re capable of very little activity, so it is very obvious they are sick.

However, many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome don’t display any outward physical signs of sickness.

No flushed or fevered appearance, no rash, not particularly pale looking, not even particularly tired looking.

But many, and I was one of them, look OK on the outside. I always managed with the help of some cosmetics to look OK.

This situation of being ill but not looking ill garnered unbelieving looks from people when I told them of my illness.

Myth # 5 – It’s All In Your Head

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeIt’s common that chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers become anxious and depressed about their situation. As they struggle to get recognition that they actually do have an illness and their many weird symptoms are not just all in their head it can be pretty overwhelming to deal with.


For many years the syndrome was treated as a psychological disorder. Now however, there is more awareness and recognition that the illness is caused by biological causes.

Studies have shown abnormal function in endocrine, immune system and nervous system function in sufferers.

Myth # 6 – You Just Need A Good Holiday

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeHolidays are great, rest and a break away from the stresses and routine of every day life can be beneficial for anyone.

Chronic fatigue sufferers may however find the effort of travel and going away from their familiar surroundings more effort than their meager energy resources can cope with.

A ‘holiday’ can zap their energy and be way less beneficial than for people who are well.

Myth # 7 – There Is No Such Thing As Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeFor many years chronic fatigue syndrome was referred to as ‘Yuppy Flu’. This description typified the general view that anyone saying they had this illness was a malingerer and simply wanted time off work to do nothing.

Nowadays, health organizations are finally acknowledging that this is a serious long term illness. Doctors are now referring to it as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. ME means inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Myth # 8 – Your GP Can Cure You

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeA visit to your GP will commonly result in them carrying out testing to exclude other illnesses before arriving at a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. One of the diagnosis criteria is the fatigue has lasted longer than 6 months. So a few visits to your

doctor may be on the cards before they arrive at your diagnosis.

As someone who recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome using natural methods I’m doubtful that your GP can give you any real help to get well. At best, they could probably prescribe pain killers and anti depressants to help with some of the symptoms of the illness.

I found a naturopath experienced in treating fatigue issues who was finally able to get me well.

Myth # 9 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Isn’t A Real Illness

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeIn fact, chronic fatigue syndrome is a debilitating illness with high disability rates similar to sufferers of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and other serious diseases.

Some people endure years of being bed bound or home bound due to this disease.

Careers, finances and relationships can all be adversely affected when the illness takes its toll on the lives of sufferers.

Not only is the illness debilitating, but it can carry on for several years as the sufferer is unable to find appropriate help.

Myth # 10 – You Can’t Recover From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

top 10 urban myths about chronic fatigue syndromeAdmittedly, it is difficult, however recovery is possible. It took me two years to get well to the point I could work and exercise regularly again.

You need to find the right help to get well. As it is a multi factorial illness you need to work with someone skilled to get to the bottom of the reason(s) for your debilitating fatigue.

It definitely takes time and patience as you work through all the various possible reasons for your illness, carry out testing and make changes to your diet, lifestyle and mental attitudes. But you can recover.

Putting It All Together

Be aware of the myths about chronic fatigue syndrome, but don’t get sucked in to believing them.

What are some of the weirdest things you’ve heard people say about chronic fatigue syndrome? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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  1. I definitely have chronic fatigue because I’m tired all day everyday even after getting 8-10 hours of sleep, eating well, exercising, and doing all these things. I take short naps very often when I’m working throughout the day, but I still remain sleepy. So how do you find the right help exactly? Do I visit my doctor and tell them my problems with feeling tired all the time?

    • Hi Kent sorry to hear you think you could have chronic fatigue syndrome. A place to start is a visit to your doctor. If nothing else they can rule out any other possible causes. 

  2. Very interesting article and it must be very frustrating for sufferers of this condition to not have a proper diagnosis or a cure in sight. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome reminded me a lot of my friend with fibro when I read all the myths, as that is also a disease that is not taken seriously by a lot of doctors.

    I am an insomniac at the best of times, and I feel very tired and listless after a night of no sleep, but to feel this way all the time and not even being able to get out of bed must be really terrible. 

    I am so glad you managed to beat this syndrome, even if it took you two years. I am sure that now you appreciate life and live it to the fullest.

    • Hi Michel thanks for stopping by. You’re right chronic fatigue syndrome is a frustrating illness, not helped by the myths  mentioned in my article. Thanks for the kind words, yes you are correct I’m grateful every day for my good health.

  3. You know I question that possibility because sometimes i just don’t get much sleep at all and my hours of sleep have never been set for specific periods. I’ve had some people tell me that I have sleep apnea but maybe it just fatigue syndrome. Thanks for the read and for busting the truth about the many myths on the subject. 

    • Doc, thanks for leaving a comment. Sleep apnea and chronic fatigue syndrome are very different. Perhaps you need to visit your doctor to work out what is gong n.

  4. I never know about such illness as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many of your listed urban myth about this syndrome is so familiar for many of us. 

    From my personal experience. After I quit smoking, I almost no longer feel tired. Almost all the listed myths have disappeared. So I think that it is possible to get rid of chronic fatigue but every situation is different.

  5. I suffered fatigue when I had fibroids I cannot even begin to imagine someone having chronic fatigue syndrome, it is true when you have not worked in the shoes of the sufferer you have no right to say all these 10 myths I have read but we human beings are so good are giving advice when we do understand.

    Thank you for the 10 myths and for opening my eyes to understanding what chronic fatigue syndrome.  Great information.

    • Hi Cinderella, great name. Yes it’s true, some people with no experience of the illness seem skeptical that it actually exists, hence they myths abound. Thanks or your comments.

  6. I have no experience with your illness, however I do have an illness where you look perfectly well (on the outside) and feel absolutely devastated internally.

    I also know that people (in general) have difficulty in accepting an illness which does not show on the physical side of the person. This can make life very frustrating and depression can be a real possibility for people with these types of illnesses.

    Dealing with the career side of the illness is something I can relate to, quite well. I was working a full time job, and developing a small business after hours when my illness struck. Since then I have been “off work” and out of work, it has been nearly impossible to work at all.

    My only hope for obtaining an income is to attempt to earn an income from the internet, as an affiliate marketer. This is something I will be pursuing in the early part of next year.

    • Hi Steve thanks for leaving a comment. So sorry to hear that your illness has caused changes in your working life. I hope the changes work out to be for the better. Good luck with your new endeavors. 

  7. Hi Ann, you are so right – I’ve heard this exact attitude/belief about chronic fatigue syndrome from uninformed folks around here – they insist on calling it “Yuppy Flu”. These misconceptions really make it difficult for people who suffer from this to find their way to recovery – having to hear every day that it’s just in their head. We have a family member who suffers from depression (with that also comes a type of CFS) there are days she cannot get up out of bed at all – and people cannot understand that someone who doesn’t look ill can actually have a legitimate condition. Thankfully awareness is spreading everyday thanks to blogs like yours. Thank you for this!

    • Hi Nadia thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I hope as you say my blog can help awareness of the illness, but also help people understand that you can recover with the right help.

  8. It is quite sad that you have to be suffering visibly for people to believe that you are suffering from a serious condition like CFS. I think people do genuinely try to help but it is probably counterproductive because they are speaking from their point of view and having never suffered CF personally they have no other perspective from which to try and help you.

    I think exercising in this state can be very dangerous, especially around equipment. You need to focus on what you are doing but in this drained state that is highly unlikely to occur. Like you say Holidays can zap your energy (and your money!) and being away from home can also be stressful especially when you feel weak and vulnerable.

    I think that spreading the word can help people realize that CF sufferers are not just slackers or people who need sleep. Sleep is very important and not getting sleep can drive you insane (literally), so imagine what it would feel like to close your eyes and wake up 8 hours later and feel like you ran a marathon instead of sleeping!

    Thanks for this information!

    • Hi Renton thanks for stopping by. I love your final comment about waking up after an 8 hour sleep feeling like you ran a marathon. I’m going to use that to describe how chronic fatigue syndrome feels in my posts…… thank you!

  9. Hi, Ann!

    I am so sorry to hear what you have been through. It must have been hard on you. As a nurse, I know something about chronic fatigue syndrome. When one says he’s not feeling well I believe him. It is a part of the training I’ve received in a medical school. I’m glad you are feeling better now. Just keep on fighting!


  10. I am so glad to hear that you are doing better. Your post reminds us that we need to not only know our bodies, but also that we need to be vigilant about standing up for the kind of care that we need. Doctors don’t know everything and often don’t take the time to pinpoint the best treatment for your particular problem. (I could tell you some specific scenarios that we have experienced related to this, but I would run out of space.) The best news is that you are sharing what you’ve learned.

    • Hi there and thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I agree we definitely must stand up for the kind of care we need and take responsibility for our own health and wellness. I believe we know our own body best and when something just isn’t right.


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