The Mighty Logo

32 Surprising Physical Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

For the average healthy person, fatigue is something that happens from time to time, maybe after running a marathon or working long hours one week at work. This fatigue usually goes away after getting a good night’s sleep and resting for a day or two. But for someone who experiences chronic fatigue as the result of a chronic illness, there is no quick, easy “fix.” Chronic fatigue (which is different than myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, a disease with its own particular set of symptoms) is not improved by sleep, and is much more complex than simply “feeling tired.”

Those who develop chronic fatigue may anticipate feeling constantly exhausted, but there can be a number of other symptoms accompanying the fatigue that many might not expect. To shed some light on this, we asked our Mighty community to share some of the surprising physical symptoms they’ve experienced because of chronic fatigue. Has chronic fatigue affected you in any unexpected ways? Let us know in the comments below.


Here’s what the community shared with us:

1. “You can stay in bed all day long and not feel rested. Sometimes sleep for 18+ hours. Sometimes suffer from insomnia. No rhyme or reason that I have found yet. Just going grocery shopping makes you want to take a full nap.”

2. “Dizziness. That is one you never hear about when it comes to fatigue.”

3. “Brain fog… Ugh, when I can’t think of a word that’s right on the tip of my tongue! I can see exactly what I am trying to say, but cannot come up with the word without help.”

4. “How heavy your limbs can feel. It can be physically challenging to move around, which leads to frustration and guilt because I can’t do all the things with my kids that ‘normal’ moms do.”

5. “Self-esteem issues. Never ever had them before, but as my condition worsened and [I started on] medication I gained [a lot of] weight and lost about 75 percent of my hair.”

6. “The shivers and chills. I get low-grade fevers and some days I get the chills that last for hours with no explanation. The fever isn’t high but the chills just drain me and make my joints ache.”

7. “It feels like I’m going through life in neck deep mud. Every step, every lift of my arms, every movement is a struggle. And my brain? It’s mush. Insomnia combined with chronic fatigue is hell on earth.”

8. “[I have] intolerance of food in some periods, while some periods I can eat anything.”

9. “Eye pain. My eyes have been greatly affected by a TBI [traumatic brain injury]. They will hurt so bad as I become more fatigued. They can’t track things right, my convergence inefficiency becomes worse and it often feels like several needles stabbing the back of my eye.”

10. “Pain. The more tired I am, the more pain I’m in. The more pain I’m in, the less I’m able to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle.”

11. “The UTIs, because you are so exhausted even going to the toilet is too much effort so you hold on…and on… I know better now! But it’s hard in the middle of the night when you are so exhausted.”

12. “The anger. It’s the hardest thing to keep controlled when you feel like you’re constantly losing control of your body. Anyone who [has] experienced pain knows it’s no fun, but the fact that there’s never any relief… It’s the hardest thing.”

13. “While my head is wide awake, my body feels powerless and heavy. My brain works, but sometimes I can’t help but just stay in bed and watch TV because my body is too tired to sit and I can’t properly read a book.”

14. “When you get that weird pins and needles feeling throughout your body and you feel like you physically cannot move.”

15. “Hallucinations and nightmares. When I get so beyond exhausted I start having sleeping issues, I hallucinate at nighttime and have nonstop nightmares from being so exhausted.”

16. “The hand/limb weakness… No one explains to you that it’s going to be so hard to hold a pen or stand in the shower or lift a bottle of water.”

17. “A surprising symptom of chronic fatigue that I’ve experienced is the isolation it can cause. You’re so extremely exhausted that you don’t want to leave home, thus isolating you from your family and friends. It’s sad, frustrating and depressing.”

18. “There seems to be no end to the pain; always a new intensity awaiting to be discovered.”

19. “The lack of ability to focus. I struggle with focusing my thoughts now that I’m chronically ill and suffer from intense fatigue. It’s awful. I lose my train of thought all the time, I can’t focus to read or write. It’s so difficult.”

20. “I thought I’d be able to ‘push through it,’ like with normal tiredness or sleepiness. It’s not at all the same, though. Your bones and muscles and brains get steeped in fatigue and you just. Literally. Cannot.”

21. “The depression associated with it is awful… it’s the tired of being tired, the ‘wanting so much to just feel alive but too tired to even try’ depression.”

22. “Random days where you just don’t feel good. There’s nothing specific that is bugging you other than feeling horrible with no explanation.”

23. “Headaches and nausea from pushing myself to stay up and do things I want or need to do when my body is screaming at me to rest. If I ignore the headaches and nausea, it turns to migraines and uncontrollable vomiting until I can fall asleep.”

24. “Surprising symptom(s) would be the lack of being able to tackle any big projects because you will get completely exhausted a quarter of the way through it and never be able to finish it.”

25. “I go between needing 16 to 20 hours a day of sleep and insomnia. It causes me to have a really hard time focusing on anything. Even after sleeping [for a long] time I still don’t feel rested, either mentally or physically. Honestly, I just feel drunk all the time and I don’t even drink. If I don’t feel drunk it feels like I have a hangover.”

26. “My pulse is usually rapid but faint and my blood doesn’t feel like it is flowing to my arms and legs.”

27. “Weight gain. Due to lack of actual sleep, your body cannot metabolize correctly. And being so fatigued, you cannot exercise enough to keep in shape.”

28. “It can be tiring to be around people and difficult to be social. I can have trouble making eye contact or other social norms. I’m afraid I seem rude or drunk. Also, one frustrating part of brain fog is that I can’t come up with witty comments or jokes quickly enough to flow in the conversation. It’s a small thing, but I miss being amusing.”

29. “I ignored my chronic fatigue and pushed too hard, even though I was in pain and really struggling. Then the day came when I couldn’t walk or talk and thought I was having a stroke, but it turns out it was vestibular migraine. I dislike the sore eyes, vertigo, confusion, migraine, sensory issues with light, sound and large crowds, the tinnitus and most of all the feeling of been completely drained.”

30. “[The] loss of time. When you’re exhausted all the time, sometimes you lose your sense of time. I feel like I’m out of body at times, like life is passing by me and I’m just a passive viewer.”

31. “Muscle tremors from the fatigue. At my worst, I can’t change my shirt or much of anything without shaking. I went to a fibromyalgia-educated PT and worked on it, but it still surprises me every now and then.”

32. “Chronic fatigue causes me severe light sensitivity. People cannot understand why I would chose to spend 90 percent of my time in the dark, like it’s a choice I make. What is difficult to explain is how having the light on affects me. It seems bizarre to most that it has such an effect on me, making me feel agitated, overstimulated, inducing migraines and tingling in my face, etc… It’s something I really find hard to put up with.”

32 Surprising Physical Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue
Originally published: July 7, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home