Can Mood Disorders Be an Early Sign of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?


Chronic illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may be linked to mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Those who live with chronic pain conditions often experience isolation, fatigue, sleep disturbances, shame, and difficulty maintaining social lives. These factors can easily create an environment for mood disorders to thrive in. However, certain mood disorders may actually be found to precede the development of chronic illness.

Chronic illness and mood disorder

Studies have found that an estimated one-fourth of those with fibromyalgia, IBS, or CFS experienced psychiatric disorders prior to the onset of the chronic illness. In particular, individuals who were later found to have CFS were more likely to have major depressive disorder (MDD), dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder, or PDD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and agoraphobia. This shows that these chronic conditions are not only impacted by physical factors, but also by psychological or emotional components.

The discovery that mood disorders could be an early predictor to certain chronic illnesses could potentially lead to health care providers taking a more holistic approach when treating these conditions. Knowing that these illnesses are composed of various factors can lead to an improved and more effective treatment option.


The correlation between mood disorders and chronic illness is not causation. An estimated three-fourths of those in the study who developed fibromyalgia, IBS, and CFS had no history of mood disorders prior to the onset of their illness. Additional studies are needed to uncover what role mood disorders play in the development of chronic illnesses.

Additional source: PLOS ONE