Objective. To compare adolescents with migraine, unexplained profound chronic fatigue of >6 months duration, and normal school controls on measures of anxiety, depression, somatization, functional disability, and illness attribution.
Methods. Adolescents referred to Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center for behavioral treatment of migraine (n = 179) or evaluation of chronic fatigue (n = 97) were compared with a group of healthy controls of similar age and sex from a middle school (n = 32). Subjects completed the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Trait Form, the Children’s Depression Inventory, the Childhood Somatization Inventory, and estimated the number of school days missed in the past 6 months because of illness. Migraine and fatigued subjects completed an illness attribution questionnaire.
Results. Subjects in the 3 groups were 56% to 70% female and ranged from 11 years old to 18 years old with a mean age of 14.0 ± 2.0. Forty-six of the 97 chronically fatigued adolescents met 1994 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome (CDC-CFS), while 51 had idiopathic chronic fatigue syndrome (I-CFS) that did not meet full CDC criteria. Adolescents with migraine had significantly higher anxiety scores than those with I-CFS or controls and higher somatization scores than controls. Adolescents with CDC-CFS had significantly higher anxiety scores than those with I-CFS or controls, and higher depression and somatization scores than all other groups. There were significant differences between all groups for school days missed with CDC-CFS more than I-CFS more than migraine more than controls. Parents of adolescents with unexplained I-CFS had significantly lower attribution scores relating illness to possible psychological or stress factors than parents of adolescents with CDC-CFS or migraine.
Conclusions. Adolescents referred to an academic center for evaluation of unexplained chronic fatigue had greater rates of school absenteeism than adolescents with migraine or healthy controls. Those meeting CDC-CFS criteria had higher anxiety scores than controls and higher depression and somatization scores than migraineurs or controls. Parents of adolescents with I-CFS were less likely to endorse psychological factors as possibly contributing to their symptoms than parents of adolescents with CDC-CFS or migraine.