Neuroendocrine correlates of chronic fatigue syndrome: a brief review

J Psychiatr Res. Jan-Feb 1997;31(1):69-82. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3956(96)00059-3.


Chronic fatigue syndrome remains one of the more perplexing syndromes in contemporary clinical medicine. One approach to understanding this condition has been to acknowledge its similarities to other disorders of clearer pathophysiology. In this review, a rationale for the study of neuroendocrine correlates of chronic fatigue syndrome is presented, based in part on the clinical observation that asthenic or fatigue states share many of the somatic symptom characteristics seen in recognized endocrine disorders. Of additional interest is the observation that psychological symptoms, particularly disturbances in mood and anxiety, are equally prominent in this condition. At this time, several reports have provided replicated evidence of disruptions in the integrity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. It is notable that the pattern of the alteration in the stress response apparatus is not reminiscent of the well-understood hypercortisolism of melancholic depression but, rather, suggests a sustained inactivation od central nervous system components of this system. Recent work also implicates alterations in central serotonergic tone in the overall pathophysiology of this finding. The implications of these observations are far from clear, but they highlight the fact that, though chronic fatigue syndrome overlaps with the well-described illness category of major depression, these are not identical clinical conditions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / urine
  • Adult
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Prolactin / blood


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Hydrocortisone