Is the chronic fatigue syndrome an exercise phobia? A case control study

J Psychosom Res. 2005 Apr;58(4):367-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2005.02.002.


Objective: The aim of this study was to test whether patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have an exercise phobia, by measuring anxiety-related physiological and psychological reactions to ordinary activity and exercise.

Methods: Patients and healthy but sedentary controls were assessed over 8 h of an ordinary day, and before, during and after an incremental exercise test on a motorised treadmill. To avoid confounding effects, those with a comorbid psychiatric disorder were excluded. Heart rate, galvanic skin resistance (GSR) and the amount of activity undertaken were measured, along with state and trait measures of anxiety.

Results: Patients with CFS were more fatigued and sleep disturbed than were the controls and noted greater effort during the exercise test. No statistically significant differences were found in either heart rate or GSR both during a normal day and before, during and after the exercise test. Patients with CFS were more symptomatically anxious at all times, but this did not increase with exercise.

Conclusion: The data suggest that CFS patients without a comorbid psychiatric disorder do not have an exercise phobia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology