NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Real?

December 23, 1998

The Social Security Administration is developing new policy guidelines that would make it much easier for people claiming to suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome to qualify for billions of dollars in disability benefits. If the ailment is officially recognized, it will be victory for a band of highly vocal activists and possibly another triumph for junk science, some observers warn.

  • By and large, the medical community views chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as a psychiatric condition linked to depression -- while those seeking benefits claim its causes are physical.
  • A large segment of the medical community reportedly remains highly skeptical of the now rampant diagnoses of CFS.
  • Observers report that when CFS activists have appeared at meetings held at the Centers for Disease Control, travesty replaced science.
  • The newsletter for CFS includes a section entitled "Senate lobbying made easy!" and urges readers to make their voices heard because, as the instructions put it, "we need to 'roar.'"

When an expert from Princeton suggested that CFS was one of a number of contemporary epidemics whose root cause was psychological, she received death threats. Another medical skeptic equates justice for CFS sufferers with disability payments.

Sources: Editorial, "Chronic Disability Payments," Wall Street Journal, December 23, 1998.


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