Childhood trauma may lead to chronic fatigue syndrome in adulthood

January 6th, 2009 - 1:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 6 (ANI): People who undergo trauma during childhood are more likely to develop chronic fatigue syndrome as adults, according to a new study.

Also, the study found that neuroendocrine dysfunction is linked to childhood trauma in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, pointing towards a biological pathway by which early experiences influence adult vulnerability to illness.

Neuroendocrine dysfunction are abnormalities in the interaction between the nervous system and endocrine system.

“Stress in interaction with other risk factors likely triggers chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms through its effects on central nervous, neuroendocrine and immune systems, resulting in functional changes that lead to fatigue and associated symptoms such as sleep disruption, cognitive impairment and pain. However, obviously not every individual exposed to a stressor goes on to develop chronic fatigue syndrome, and it is therefore of critical importance to understand sources of individual differences in vulnerability to the pathogenic effects of stress,” wrote the authors.

Led by Christine Heim, Ph.D., of Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, the researchers studied 113 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and 124 healthy individuals who served as controls. All the participants were drawn from a general sample of 19,381 adults residents of Georgia

The participants reported whether they had experienced childhood trauma, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse or emotional and physical neglect.

They also underwent screening for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and were tested for levels of the hormone cortisol in their saliva. Low levels may indicate decreased function of the body”’’s main neuroendocrine stress response system, the authors note.

It was found that those with chronic fatigue syndrome reported higher levels of childhood traumaexposure to trauma was associated with a six-fold increase in the risk of having the condition.

Sexual abuse, emotional abuse and emotional neglect were most closely associated with chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients suffering from the syndrome were also more likely than controls to have depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Also, the researchers discovered that cortisol levels were decreased in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome who experienced childhood trauma, but not in those with chronic fatigue syndrome who had not been subjected to trauma.

Thus, the authors noted that early life stress may lead to biological susceptibility to chronic fatigue syndrome.

“Our results confirm childhood trauma as an important risk factor of chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition, neuroendocrine dysfunction, a hallmark feature of chronic fatigue syndrome, appears to be associated with childhood trauma. This possibly reflects a biological correlate of vulnerability due to early developmental insults. Our findings are critical to inform pathophysiological research and to devise targets for the prevention of chronic fatigue syndrome,” they wrote.

The study is published in the latest issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. (ANI)

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