Evaluation and Management of Patients With Chronic Fatigue

Am J Med Sci. 1991 Nov;302(5):269-77. doi: 10.1097/00000441-199111000-00002.


Chronic fatigue is a common and disabling problem in primary care practice. The differential diagnosis of chronic fatigue is extensive and includes medical disorders, altered physiologic states (eg, pregnancy, exertion), psychiatric disorders, lifestyle derangements, drugs, and controversial entities (eg, chronic candidiasis, food allergies, environmental illness, and chronic fatigue syndrome). The most common diagnoses are psychiatric disorders, including mood, anxiety, and somatoform disorders. A comprehensive approach to diagnosis and management is necessary, including structured psychiatric interviewing, functional assessment, and elicitation of the patient's diagnostic beliefs. Patients often believe they are suffering from an organic medical disorder (eg, viral or immunologic) and resist psychiatric labelling of their symptoms and referral to mental health practitioners. Establishing and maintaining rapport, having a flexible approach, and demonstrating a personal concern for the patient is essential. Drug therapy for specific psychiatric and medical illnesses and cognitive-behavioral approaches for enhancing coping mechanisms are effective.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / diagnosis
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatigue / diagnosis*
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Panic Disorder / diagnosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis