Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) emerged as a diagnostic category
during the last decade. Initial research suggested that CFS
was a relatively rare disorder with a high level of
psychiatric comorbidity. Many physicians minimized the
seriousness of this disorder and also interpreted the syndrome
as being equivalent to a psychiatric disorder. These attitudes
had negative consequences for the treatment of CFS. By the
mid-1990s, findings from more representative epidemiological
studies indicated considerably higher CFS prevalence rates.
However, the use of the revised CFS case definition might have
produced heterogeneous patient groups, possibly including some
patients with pure psychiatric disorders. Social scientists
have the expertise to more precisely define this syndrome and
to develop appropriate and sensitive research strategies for
understanding this disease.