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Conventional medicine and chronic fatigue: the failed paradigm. Page 2 of 2

Continued from page 1

Chronic fatigue is NOT depression

Although fatigue, changes in weight and difficulty sleeping may occasionally be indicative of mental illness, in and of themselves they are not mental illness! For the most part these of signs of poor health, and can be often helped through natural medicine.

However, it is a lot easier for a doctor to slap a "depression," or "chemical imbalance," label on a patient and send them out the door with a psychiatric drug prescription than do a proper work up.

Compare the diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome to depression CFS or Depression?

The diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome is a lengthy process where all other possible causes of fatigue must be excluded.

However the diagnosis of depression, or prescription of anti-depressants medications is often quickly done requires a lot less work, and get's rid of those annoying patients for whom the doctor has no answer.



What does this mean for the typical patient?

Instead of getting a thorough investigation into the cause of chronic fatigue, patients are often referred to a psychiatrists or just told to take psychiatric medications for depression.

Doctors often hand out anti-depressants to sick people to use as happy pills The happy pill prescription

The dismissal of patients who have fatigue caused by very real and fixable problems, as nut jobs, who need to be put on dangerous psychiatric drugs, which in the long run just make them even more sick, amounts to the total failure of the conventional medial system in understanding and treating chronic fatigue.



Does the conventional diagnosis even matter?

Ironically, even if patients where given a more correct diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome instead of depression, it really wouldn't make a big difference since the treatment basically going to be the same either way!

For example on the Mayo Clinic's web site, possible treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome include psychiatric drugs for depression, pain medications, and sleeping pills. [9]

What really determines the diagnosis

Often the diagnosis depends more on the doctor, than the patients actual illness. A chronic fatigue syndrome doctor will diagnose a patient with chronic fatigue syndrome whereas a depression doctor may diagnose the same patient with depression and a fibromyalgia doctor will diagnose the exact same patient with fibromyalgia.

aa chronic fatigue syndrone doctor diagnoses chronic fatigue as chronic fatigue syndrone or CFS

Depression doctor diagnoses chronic fatigue as clinical depressionA fibromyalgia doctor diagnoses chronic fatigue as fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia is a way misunderstood and overused diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is a condition associated with muscle pain and fatigue. However, there is a lot more that should go into diagnosing a patient with fibromyalgia than just that. Since many doctors don't understand what fibromyalgia is, there is a lot of misdiagnosis and misinformation about it. Go to my article What is fibromyalgia, for more information on hat this diagnosis is, and what it is not.

Treatment for fibromyalgia

Ironically, if a patient gets diagnosed with fibromyalgia instead of depression or chronic fatigue syndrome the treatment is going to be the same anyway. For example, treatment suggestions for fibromyalgia on the Mayo Clinic include: analgesics (or pain killers), anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs. [10]

mayo clinic treatment recomendations for fibromyalgia Treatment for fibromyalgia

The Mayo clinic recommends:

  • Anti-depressants
  • Analgesics (pain killers)
  • Anti-seizure drugs

This sounds a lot like the treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or depression!



Therefore three of the most common diagnoses chronically fatigued people get: Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and depression all lead to the prescription of antidepressants. As if these conditions where all caused by some kind of antidepressant drug deficiency. Patients with these diagnoses are also often prescribed pain killers and sleep medication.


Other diagnoses for chronic fatigue

Other common diagnosis the same patient may get from a different doctor is hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, viral infections, or to simply be told nothing is wrong and it's just stress or normal aging.

There are some chronically fatigued people who truly do have hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or some other illness which has been misdiagnosed.

However we must be wary anytime someone attempts to lump up all people who have chronic fatigue into the same category. The causes of fatigue are just too varied to do that.


CFS, Fibromyalgia and Depression

These three diagnoses have a lot in common:

And finally, great overlap in the diagnostic criteria.
The graphic below illustrates this point:

chronic fatigue fibromyalgia depression chart overlap in diagnostic criteria How many diagnoses apply to you?

There are some people for whom one of these diagnoses makes sense. However, for many people these are just labels, given to them by a doctor who doesn't know what is going on. Depending on your symptoms, 1, 2 or all 3 of these diagnoses may apply to you.



Go here for an in depth chart comparing CFS, fibromyalgia and depression.

Therefore, if you have been given one of these diagnoses, you should consider if:

  1. The diagnosis was given after your doctor did a thorough evaluation which showed your diagnosis applies to your case.
  2. The diagnosis was given after a very brief evaluation, and you are not sure if it is correct. Often such diagnoses are followed by prescriptions of dangerous medications that don't help patients that much, if at all.

Chronic fatigue syndrome is not a single illness

The idea that "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," represents a single disease, with a single, as of yet, unidentified cause is baseless. Two different people could both have chronic fatigue syndrome, yet be sick for totally different reasons!

Please go to Chronic Fatigue considerations from a holistic perspective for an overview of the very real and fixable problems with so often do cause chronic fatigue and associated symptoms in so many people.

© 2010 Naturopathic Wellness LLC.




[1] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Who's at Risk? accessed 4/17/2010

[2] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Definition. accessed 4/17/2010

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Medline Plus. accessed 4/17/2010.

[6] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Basic Facts. accessed 4/17/2010.

[7] Depression. Medline Plus. accessed 4/17/2010.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Chronic Fatigue Syndrome By Mayo Staff. accessed 4/17/2010

[10] Fibromyalgia By Mayo Staff accessed 4/17/2010