Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Morton O. Wagenfeld

Second Advisor

Dr. James Peterson

Third Advisor

Dr. Gerald Markle

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


The 1980's witnessed the rise and decline of a popular diagnosis of fatigue known as "chronic fatigue syndrome" (CFS). The phenomenon was first observed in the U.S. at Lake Tahoe, Nevada and was thought to be a chronic form of infectious mononucleosis. While the labels used to describe this syndrome are new, the syndrome itself is not. To date there has been no conclusive etiological work, and the syndrome is still an exercise in speculative pathology.

This thesis will use the theory of social constructionism to help explain the waxing and waning interest in CFS and CFS-like diseases, as well as the powerful appeal of such a label. Chronic fatigue syndrome is a prime example of both the medicalization of deviance and the power of interest groups and moral entrepreneurs to make the labels health and ill-health relevant to a larger segment of the population.

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