Information Processing Impairments in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a long-term and debilitating condition that affects at least one million Americans. The symptoms are complex, often including intense physical and mental fatigue (usually made worse by exertion), muscle and joint pain, disturbed sleep, and both concentration and memory problems.

Chronic fatigue syndrome derives its name from its dominant symptom – fatigue. However, CFS has eight other official symptoms:
• Loss of memory or concentration • Sore throat • Enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or armpits • Unexplained muscle pain • Pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness • Headache of a new type, pattern or severity • Unrefreshing sleep • Extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise
Those who suffer from CFS can experience debilitating cognitive dysfunction and mental fatigue. This is commonly referred to as “brain fog.” A recent research study found that the main cognitive disruption in those living with CFS was attributed to slow information processing. After comparing several types of cognitive dysfunction between control subjects and those with CFS, they found information processing speed and reaction time to be impaired in those with CFS.
Interesting to note, researchers discovered that information processing problems did not seem to be a consequence of psychiatric status, depression, anxiety, the number or severity of CFS symptoms, fatigue, sleep quality, or everyday functioning. While the CFS group showed impaired reaction time, they displayed comparable performance on attention, memory, motor function, verbal ability, and spatial ability (even though these remain commonly reported problems in CFS) to the control subjects. The significance of these findings is unclear, but prompts us to consider the relationship between the cognitive symptoms of CFS and information processing difficulties.

While parts of CFS and its relationship with its symptoms are not yet fully understood by the scientific community, studies continue to show that the symptoms and life altering effects are real. Many of our clients have been deeply impacted and disabled by the cognitive and physical symptoms of CFS. Their complaints of extreme fatigue, pain, and cognitive impairment are often dismissed by insurance companies in deciding claims. Often this is because there is no single diagnostic test to confirm the illness.

If your CFS has adversely affected your ability to work, contact Kantor & Kantor for a no-cost consultation. We can help. Find us at or call (877) 783-8686.

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