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CFS linked to childhood trauma

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People who experience trauma during childhood are significantly more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) as adults, suggest US researchers.

The team from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, questioned 113 patients with CFS and 124 people without the condition about five different types of childhood trauma, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Study participants were also screened for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and had their saliva tested for levels of the hormone cortisol.

The researchers found that those exposed to childhood trauma were six times more likely to develop CFS. Patients with CFS were also more likely than controls to suffer from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

The researchers also found that only the patients with CFS who had experienced childhood trauma had lower than normal levels of cortisol.

The authors said: ‘Our results confirm childhood trauma as an important risk factor of CFS. In addition, neuroendocrine dysfunction, a hallmark feature of CFS, appears to be associated with childhood trauma.

‘Our findings are critical to inform pathophysiological research and to devise targets for the prevention of CFS,’ they added.

Archives of General Psychiatry (2009) 66: 72-80

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