Neurocognitive complaints and functional status among patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia

Qual Life Res. 2016 May;25(5):1257-63. doi: 10.1007/s11136-015-1160-y. Epub 2015 Oct 15.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to conduct a longitudinal examination of cognitive complaints and functional status in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) alone and those who also had fibromyalgia (CFS/FM).

Methods: A total of 93 patients from a tertiary care fatigue clinic were evaluated on four occasions, each 6 months apart. Each evaluation included a tender point assessment, and self-reported functional status and cognitive complaints.

Results: Patients with CFS/FM reported significantly worse physical functioning, more bodily pain, and more cognitive difficulties (visuo-perceptual ability and verbal memory) than patients with CFS alone. Over time, bodily pain decreased only for participants with CFS alone. Verbal memory problems were associated with more bodily pain for both patient groups, whereas visuo-perceptual problems were associated with worse functional status for patients with CFS alone.

Conclusions: This study adds to the literature on functional status, longitudinal course, and cognitive difficulties among patients with CFS and those with CFS and FM. The results suggest that patients with CFS/FM are more disabled, have more cognitive complaints, and improve more slowly over time than patients with CFS alone. Specific cognitive difficulties are related to worse functional status, which supports the addition of cognitive difficulties to the FM case criteria.

Keywords: Chronic fatigue syndrome; Fibromyalgia; Functional status; Neurocognitive symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cognition*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / complications*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult