ADHD, Chronic Fatigue, and Fibromyalgia

By Jeff Copper, MBA, PCC, PCAC, CPCC, ACG – September 18, 2023

What is chronic fatigue? What is fibromyalgia? Are they related to attention deficit disorder? Although ADHD is not typically associated with either chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, it does seem to be an unusual combination of features that those with ADHD complain of. For answers, I interviewed Dr. Joel Young, a psychiatrist at the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine (, who has studied and treated ADHD through the life cycle for 20 years.

Through his work, Dr. Young has noticed that a number of his patients with ADHD also had symptoms of chronic fatigue and/or fibromyalgia. It caused him to question whether these were separate conditions or actually symptoms of ADHD.

According to Dr. Young, chronic fatigue is a disorder that typically affects older adults, women more than men, for which there is no good medical explanation. It is not a result of ongoing exertion or a lack of rest. It is not sleep-responsive fatigue, so it is a not a sleep issue. Everyone gets tired, but chronic fatigue is a prolonged condition where there is no clear understanding of what it is or what causes it, so it cannot be well understood.

Similarly, fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder associated with persistent aches and pains from trigger points and tender spots on the body. Fibromyalgia is nebulous. The pain is officially usually in mid muscle but may also come with joint pain. It is not consistent and varies from one patient to another, migrating throughout the body with muscular trigger points.

In his practice, Dr. Young has found that over the lifespan this phenomenon existed where some of his patients with ADHD also had a co-existence of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia. There is no biological workup or diagnostic testing that can point to a clear finding of either chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, and neither is there any similar testing for ADHD. Therefore, no clear association between ADHD and chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia has been found. However, clinicians have conducted placebo and medication trials to determine the effectiveness of treatment to determine if there is any correlation in that regard.

It’s a fascinating space and research is still needed. It is unknown whether it’s a result of ADHD or neuroplasticity where your brain changes physically. For example, when you pay attention to chronic pain long enough without certain filters, your brain changes in that direction. There may be a relationship in that direction as people seem to respond to stimulant medications.

If you have ADHD and experience fatigue and/or muscle/joint pain, please check out my podcast interview with Dr. Young, “ADHD & Fatigue: Is there a Link? A Discussion of New Research,” We’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter, so please leave a comment.

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