Jan. 5, 2009 -- Experiencing serious trauma during childhood may increase a person's risk for developing chronic fatigue syndrome later in life, a new study suggests.
In the study from the CDC and Atlanta's Emory University, patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) reported much higher levels of childhood trauma than people without the disorder.
Severe childhood trauma -- including sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect -- was associated with a sixfold increase in CFS.
Chronic fatigue syndrome remains a poorly understood disorder, and the suggestion that early-life stresses play an important role in the disease remains controversial.
Harvard Medical School professor and CFS expert Anthony L. Komaroff, FACP, did not take part in the new study. But he tells WebMD that the findings make a strong case for childhood trauma altering brain chemistry in a way that makes some people more vulnerable to CFS.
"These researchers are definitely not saying that early-life trauma is the cause of chronic fatigue syndrome," he says. "To say that something is a risk factor is very different from saying that it is the cause."