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Children and young people

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Your doctor

Your doctor

The first doctor you will see about M.E. will probably be your GP (which stands for General Practitioner) at your local surgery. A good GP is someone who is open-minded, and the best GP is someone who has experience in supporting children and young people with M.E. 

Your GP can also make a referral to a specialist M.E. service - the people who work here will know a lot about M.E. and you can find your nearest one in our services directory. If you are too poorly to get to the surgery to see your GP, your parent or carer can ask that the GP visit you at home. The surgery should find a way to support you and monitor your illness when you are this unwell.

Not all GPs have the same understanding of M.E., perhaps based on previous experience, or what they have read about the condition. We know that children and adults with M.E. report having a range of experiences, depending on the attitude of the doctor.

Sometimes we hear about doctors who don't take M.E. seriously, or wrongly believe that it's a mental health problem. The good news is that the number of doctors with this view is getting smaller, thanks to positive work by supportive professionals and charities like Action for M.E., and a growing body of research.

Those who tell us they have a positive experience see doctors who have supported people with M.E. before, and understand that it is a neurological condition that can also have a big impact on your mental health, relationships and education. Other doctors may not know very much about M.E., but are open-minded and willing to listen to find out more and support you as best they can.


Making the most of your doctor

Seeing your doctor regularly helps build a relationship, and over time you should feel comfortable with each other. If you develop any new symptoms or health problems it is important to tell your doctor so that they can see whether the symptoms are part of your M.E. or are caused by something different. They may be able to see a link which is not obvious to you.

Seeing your doctor regularly also means that:

  • they can suggest ways of relieving some symptoms, even though they won't have all the answers
  • if you become ill with something extra, your doctor will know what your health was like before.
  • if you need to, you can ask them to share important information with your school about how M.E. affects you; this can also be useful if you are applying for welfare benefits
  • they can potentially refer you for walking aids, wheelchairs and other social care support.

Doctors are human – they can make mistakes! Most doctors are not taught about M.E. at medical school (something that Action for M.E. is working to change). Your doctor may have a lot to learn from you and may feel uncomfortable about this as much as you do. It's frustrating for them that there is no test for M.E. and they cannot give you a cure. Let your doctor see that you understand this, but that you still need them for support and advice.

Doctors rely on evidence-based medicine, which means that it can be hard for them to do anything that hasn't been scientifically proven. So when you ask for something, it may be out of your doctor's hands, especially if your doctor doesn't have prior experience of supporting children and young people with M.E.

Read more about effective communication with your doctor.


Taking a parent or carer with you

When you go to a doctor's appointment with your parent or carer, decide beforehand who is going to do the talking. The message will come across better if you do the talking (if energy allows). To make a particularly important point, try making clear, strong eye contact while talking.

If your mum, dad or carer is attending just for moral support, they should sit a little further back than you, and a little more out of the doctor's eyeline. If the doctor still talks to your them rather than you, your mum, dad or carer should sit back in their seat and avoid eye contact with the doctor. The doctor will then transfer their attention to the one who is making eye contact, ie. you. If your parent or carer needs to talk on your behalf, explain this to the doctor yourself at the beginning (there is no need to apologise for this).

The message is more effective if one person speaks without a lot of interruptions from the other. The best way for your parent or carer to offer moral support is to look at you while you are talking, and nod to show agreement. They should only join in if they feel you have lost your thread and invite them to take over (arrange beforehand how you will do this), or if you are getting upset or feeling pressured by the doctor.