'Sometimes it feels as if the world goes on without me': adolescents' experiences of living with chronic fatigue syndrome

J Clin Nurs. 2014 Sep;23(17-18):2649-57. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12522. Epub 2013 Dec 20.


Aims and objectives: To explore the experience of being an adolescent with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Background: Despite ample research, chronic fatigue syndrome is still poorly understood, and there are still controversies related to the illness. Adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome are often unable to attend school and lose social relations with friends. The challenges they face will affect their quality of life.

Design: A qualitative, phenomenological hermeneutical design.

Method: Six boys and twelve girls, aged 12-18, were interviewed, emphasising their own experiences living with chronic fatigue syndrome. Analyses were performed using a phenomenological hermeneutical method.

Results: The core theme, 'Sometimes it feels as if the world goes on without me', encompasses the feelings an adolescent living with chronic fatigue syndrome might have about life. The core theme was supported by four subthemes: 'On the side of life--locked in and shut out'; 'the body, the illness and me'; 'if the illness is not visible to others, does it exist?'; and 'handling life while hoping for a better future'. The subthemes reflect the experience of social isolation, their own and others' understanding of the illness and hope for the future.

Conclusions: Not being able to be with friends, or attend school, made the adolescents feel different and forgotten. They felt alienated in their own bodies and were struggling to be visible to themselves and to their surroundings. Spending less time with friends and more time with their parents constituted a threat to independence and development. Yet they managed to envision a better future despite all the difficulties.

Relevance for clinical practice: To provide effective support and constructive relations to adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome, all health professions involved need insight from the persons who are themselves ill. Health centres could function as resource centres for patients and healthcare professionals.

Keywords: adolescents; chronic illness; fatigue; hermeneutics; phenomenology; qualitative study; quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Child
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / nursing
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Quality of Life*