J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;46(11):1143-51.
Elena Garralda M, Chalder T.
Imperial College, London, UK.
Background: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is being increasingly recognized in children and adolescents. Yet comparatively little attention has been given in the literature to management.
Methods: Description of the main features of the disorder, precipitating and maintaining factors and diagnostic assessment. Outline of different views on the nature and treatment of CFS in childhood. Description of a rehabilitation program based on cognitive behavior therapy and graded activity.
Results: Using adult research criteria, CFS can be diagnosed in children and adolescents. In its severe form it is often triggered by infectious illness episodes. It is commonly associated with mood disorders in the child and with mental distress and high levels of emotional involvement in parents. A number of patient support groups hold the view that CFS is a medical disorder, contest a psychiatric contribution and advocate ‘pacing’ as an approach to rehabilitation which includes avoiding activities. To date there is no empirical evidence for the efficacy of this approach.
Research in adults, open and clinical reports in children support the use of graded activity and family cognitive behavior therapy. The main aim is to enable children, with the help of their family, to carry out their own rehabilitation with some support and guidance from a health professional. Engaging the child and family in treatment and forming a therapeutic alliance is a continual process and a crucial aspect of management, as many families view the condition as a medical disorder and are initially ambivalent towards this approach.
Conclusions: There is controversy about the nature and management of CFS in childhood but a rehabilitation program based on family cognitive behavior therapy can be implemented and seems to hold most promise in the management of children with CFS. Family engagement is a crucial aspect of management.
PMID: 16238661 [PubMed – in process]