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Stress, childhood trauma linked to chronic fatigue syndrome in adults

Traumatic events in childhood and stress or emotional instability at any period in life may be associated with the development of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), according to two articles in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. The findings suggest that CFS and similar illnesses may result from the brain's inability to cope with challenging experiences.

CFS affects between 400,000 and 900,000 U.S. adults, according to background information in the article. The condition is defined as unexplained fatigue that lasts for at least six months, does not get better with rest and interferes with daily activities. For a formal diagnosis of CFS, fatigue must be accompanied by at least four of eight additional symptoms, including extreme fatigue after exertion, difficulties with memory and concentration, unrefreshing sleep, headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, sore throat and tender lymph nodes. "Despite the substantial public burden of CFS, the causes and pathophysiology [underlying changes] of CFS remain unknown, and effective prevention is elusive," the authors of the first article write.

Christine Heim, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University, Atlanta, and colleagues compared 43 individuals with CFS to 60 controls without CFS who were all part of a large study of Wichita, Kansas, residents. All participants (average age 50.5) underwent a medical examination and provided their medical history, and were interviewed to detect psychiatric disorders. They then responded to a questionnaire that assessed for five types of childhood trauma: emotional, physical and sexual abuse and emotional and physical neglect. Responses to each item were numbered and added to produce a score for each type of trauma and one overall trauma score.

Individuals with CFS had higher overall trauma scores than those without CFS. Exposure to trauma increased the risk of CFS between thre
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Contact: Kathi Baker
404-727-9371
JAMA and Archives Journals
6-Nov-2006


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