Childhood Trauma Linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Early-life stress may cause biological susceptibility to chronic fatigue syndrome

TUESDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood trauma may be a significant risk factor for chronic fatigue syndrome. It also appears to be associated with a hallmark feature of chronic fatigue syndrome: neuroendocrine dysfunction, according to the results of a study published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Christine Heim, Ph.D., of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and colleagues studied 113 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 124 healthy controls.

The researchers found that childhood trauma was associated with a sixfold increased risk of chronic fatigue syndrome, and that sexual abuse, emotional abuse and emotional neglect most strongly differentiated cases from controls. They also found that only the chronic fatigue syndrome cases who had been exposed to childhood trauma showed decreased salivary cortisol concentrations after awakening compared to controls.

"Longitudinal studies are needed to provide information on the causal relationship between childhood trauma, hypocortisolism and chronic fatigue syndrome, and to systematically evaluate developmental trajectories as well as mediators and moderators of this relationship," the authors conclude. "Such studies have the potential to elucidate the pathophysiology, identify subtypes and devise strategies for preventing and treating chronic fatigue syndrome."

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