Medical history has shown that clinical disease entities or syndromes are composed of many subgroups--each with its own cause and pathogenesis. Although we cannot be sure, we expect the same outcome for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a medically unexplained condition characterized by disabling fatigue accompanied by infectious, rheumatological, and neuropsychiatric symptoms. Although the ailment clearly can occur after severe infection, no convincing data exist to support an infectious (or immunologic) process in disease maintenance. Instead, data point to several possible pathophysiological processes: a covert encephalopathy, impaired physiological capability to respond to physical and mental stressors, and psychological factors related to concerns about effort exacerbating symptoms. Each of these is under intense investigation. In addition, some data do exist to indicate that environmental agents also can elicit a state of chronic fatigue. We expect data to accumulate to support the belief that CFS has multiple causes.