Objective: To ascertain psychiatric adjustment in youngsters with a history of childhood chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Method: Subjects were 25 children and adolescents with CFS who were seen in tertiary pediatric/psychiatric clinics (mean age 15.6 years, seen a mean of 45.5 months after illness onset; 17 subjects had recovered and 8 were still ill) and 15 healthy matched controls. Youngsters and their parents (usually mothers) were interviewed and completed questionnaires. Instruments used included the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia for School-Age Children (K-SADS), the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and the Harter Self-Esteem Questionnaire.
Results: At assessment, psychiatric disorders (mainly anxiety and depressive disorders) were present in half the subjects with a history of CFS, a rate significantly higher than in healthy controls. On the CBCL youngsters with a history of CFS had an excess of psychological symptoms and decreased social competence. On the Harter Self-Esteem Questionnaire they reported reduced self-esteem, especially in social competence. Anxiety disorders were significantly more common in recovered subjects than in those with active CFS illness status.
Conclusions: Psychiatric disorders were found to be increased in adolescents with a history of severe CFS; CFS may enhance the risk for or share common predisposing factors with anxiety disorders.