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Childhood Trauma Tied to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Date:1/6/2009

ple without the condition. The participants were asked whether they had experienced such childhood trauma as sexual, physical or emotional abuse or emotional and physical neglect.

The researchers also screened the participants for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. They were also tested for saliva levels of the hormone cortisol; low cortisol levels can indicate reduced function of the body's neuroendocrine stress response system.

The researchers found that people who had experienced a childhood trauma were six times more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, compared with non-traumatized individuals.

Among people with CFS who'd suffered childhood trauma, cortisol levels were lower. That was not the case among those with CFS who had not had a childhood trauma. The researchers said this finding indicates that stress early in life might cause a biological susceptibility to CFS.

Reeves's group hopes to extend the findings to new treatments for the condition.

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an expert on CFS, doesn't think childhood trauma causes CFS but, rather, might contribute to its development.

"Since a substantial fraction of people with CFS report no childhood abuse, and since none of the control subjects [in the new study] with childhood abuse had CFS, childhood abuse is not the cause of CFS," Komaroff said. "However, childhood abuse may alter brain chemistry in such a way that people are subsequently more vulnerable to developing CFS."

More information

To learn more about chronic fatigue syndrome, visit the CFIDS Association of America.



SOURCES: William C. Reeves, M.D., chief, Chronic Viral Diseases Branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta; Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D
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