Background: Adolescents with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) seen in specialist centres have substantial psychological and functional impairment. Beliefs about activity levels may be important in the development of CFS.
Method: The aim was to investigate psychological and functional impairment, and beliefs in children and adolescents with CFS recruited from non-specialist services. A total of 30 such individuals participated, and 30 young people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) formed the comparison group.
Results: Emotional symptoms and disorder were high in both groups. In all, 50% of those with CFS and 30% with IBD reached the threshold for emotional disorder according to the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) parent report, although this difference did not reach statistical significance. Participants with CFS scored statistically significantly higher on measures of functional impairment, including school non-attendance, compared to those with IBD. According to questionnaire responses, those with CFS were statistically significantly more likely to favour rest rather than exercise compared to those with IBD. Comparison of parental beliefs did not show such a difference.
Conclusions: These young people with CFS were at high risk of psychiatric disorder. They were substantially disabled when compared to individuals with a known chronic illness. Also, as a group, they were characterised by a preference for rest rather than exercise.