Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Because chronic fatigue syndrome affects people in many different ways, your treatment will be tailored to your specific set of symptoms. Symptom relief may include certain medications:

  • Antidepressants. Many people who have chronic fatigue syndrome are also depressed. Treating your depression can make it easier for you to cope with the problems associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Low doses of some antidepressants also can help improve sleep and relieve pain.
  • Sleeping pills. If home measures, such as avoiding caffeine, don't help you get better rest at night, your doctor might suggest trying prescription sleep aids.


There's no known cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, and the most effective treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome remains uncertain. However, there's evidence that a multipronged approach may be helpful:

  • Pace yourself. Keep your activity on an even level. If you do too much on your good days, you may have more bad days.
  • Graded exercise. In order to improve daily function, more than pacing alone is needed. Previous studies suggest that graded exercise is an effective and safe treatment, but evidence for this remains limited.

    A physical therapist can help determine what types of exercise are best for you. Inactive people often begin with range-of-motion and stretching exercises for just a few minutes a day. Slow, incremental increases in activity then take place over weeks to months.

    If you're exhausted the next day, you're doing too much. Your strength and endurance will improve as you gradually increase the intensity of your exercise over time.

  • Psychological counseling. Talking with a counselor can help you figure out options to work around some of the limitations that chronic fatigue syndrome imposes on you. Feeling more in control of your life can improve your outlook dramatically. Cognitive behavioral therapy and self-management strategies are among the most helpful.

Not everyone who has severe chronic fatigue and postexertional malaise — intense exhaustion or mental fatigue after physical or mental activities that were once tolerated — responds to treatment in the same way. People who have a better chance of treatment success tend to have less impairment, focus less on symptoms, comply with counseling programs and pace themselves to avoid overexertion and underexertion.

Aug. 30, 2016