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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities in a Community-Based Sample of Persons With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome-Like Symptoms

Jason, Leonard A. PhD; Taylor, Renee R. PhD; Kennedy, and Cara L. BA

Original Articles

Objective The aim of this study was to determine illness comorbidity rates for individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia (FM), and multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). An additional objective was to identify characteristics related to the severity of fatigue, disability, and psychiatric comorbidity in each of these illness groups.

Methods A random sample of 18,675 residents in Chicago, Illinois, was first interviewed by telephone. A control group and a group of individuals with chronic fatigue accompanied by at least four minor symptoms associated with CFS received medical and psychiatric examinations.

Results Of the 32 individuals with CFS, 40.6% met criteria for MCS and 15.6% met criteria for FM. Individuals with MCS or more than one diagnosis reported more physical fatigue than those with no diagnosis. Individuals with more than one diagnosis also reported greater mental fatigue and were less likely to be working than those with no diagnosis. Individuals with CFS, MCS, FM, or more than one diagnosis reported greater disability than those with no diagnosis.

Conclusions Rates of coexisting disorders were lower than those reported in prior studies. Discrepancies may be in part attributable to differences in sampling procedures. People with CFS, MCS, or FM endure significant disability in terms of physical, occupational, and social functioning, and those with more than one of these diagnoses also report greater severity of physical and mental fatigue. The findings illustrate differences among the illness groups in the range of functional impairment experienced.

From the Department of Psychology, DePaul University, Chicago, IL.

Address reprint requests to: Leonard Jason, PhD, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, IL 60614. Email:

Received for publication October 25, 1999; revision received March 10, 2000.

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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