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Differential diagnosis

Pediatric ME/CFS is frequently misdiagnosed as a behavioral or emotional issue, such as school phobia or depression. These disorders can occur at the same time as ME/CFS, or can be a consequence of dealing with a devastating chronic illness, and their presence does not rule out a diagnosis of ME/CFS. Careful observation of symptoms can differentiate ME/CFS from other disorders. For example, young people with depression don’t want to participate in activities, whereas young people with ME/CFS want desperately to continue normal activities, but are not physically able. Young people with depression may feel better after moderate exercise, whereas young people with ME/CFS may suffer post-exertional malaise and a relapse of other symptoms. Young people with school phobia may feel better when allowed to stay home or on weekends, whereas no such pattern exists in young people with ME/CFS.