“We just needed to put to rest, once and for all, the idea that [chronic fatigue syndrome] is just psychosomatic or that people were making this up, or that they were just lazy,” said Ellen Wright Clayton, a professor of pediatrics and law at Vanderbilt University, who chaired the committee of the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the cause of the disorder is still unknown, the panel established three critical symptoms for the condition (also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis):
A sharp reduction in the ability to engage in pre-illness activity levels that lasts for more than six months and is accompanied by deep fatigue that only recently developed.
Worsening of symptoms after any type of exertion, including “physical, cognitive or emotional stress.”
Sleep that doesn’t refresh the sufferer.
In addition, the committee said, true chronic fatigue syndrome also includes either cognitive impairment or the inability to remain upright with symptoms that improve when the person with the condition lies down, known as “orthostatic intolerance.”