Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Highly Associated With Childhood Trauma and Abuse

I have long known that Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, CFIDS, CFS) is highly linked to childhood abuse. Dr. Goldstein, the now deceased expert on CFIDS/CFS, personally told me in his office that over half of his CFIDS/CFS patients had an “unsafe” childhood, and there is plenty of evidence in studies that show a link between child abuse and this horrific disease.

I knew of a woman in my personal life (I did not meet her in a CFIDS/CFS related group) who had the disease, and she was sexually abused by her father, and her mother knew about it, but did nothing to help her. This is my childhood history as well.

Please read my story of how I came to understand the link between the disease and childhood sexual abuse. Click here: My story

Abuse History More Common in Those With Pelvic Pain, CFS, and Fibromyagia

“Although the research findings are mixed, I have found a history of abuse to be common in my CFS/FMS patients. In one study, exposure to childhood trauma was associated with a 6-fold increased risk of CFS and this was associated with the stress hormone changes seen in CFS (see abstract below). And as many as 70% have suffered physical or emotional abuse-as opposed to 15% of healthy people and 45% of those with other rheumatologic problems.1 In another study, 18-33% of patients with Interstitial Cystitis had a history of sexual abuse.2

We have also seen in our practice that the pelvic pain , is sometimes associated with hysterectomy at a young age associated with a history of childhood sexual abuse, with the psyche seemingly trying to create a “clean sweep” of the pelvic area surgically.”

My notes: When I came down with CFIDS, I used to get sharp pains in my vagina, that were un-diagnosable. They only hit me when I walked into a bathroom. My father raped me in a bathroom. The pains have disappeared because I dealt with the rape in therapy.

“Meanwhile, physicians continue this abuse pattern by invalidating and not adequately treating the medical problems that can occur downstream from abuse issues, and treating women with these severe processes like they are crazy. It is like treating people with crushing chest pain and a massive heart attack like they were crazy because hostility and depression are associated with an increased heart attack risk.”

Just because a particular disease is related to abuse or trauma, it does not minimize the effects of the disease, or the pain and discomfort in the sufferer.

“Childhood trauma appears to be a potent risk factor for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Evidence from developmental neuroscience suggests that early experience programs the development of regulatory systems that are implicated in the pathophysiology of CFS, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. However, the contribution of childhood trauma to neuroendocrine dysfunction in CFS remains obscure.

Objectives

To replicate findings on the relationship between childhood trauma and risk for CFS and to evaluate the association between childhood trauma and neuroendocrine dysfunction in CFS.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A case-control study of 113 persons with CFS and 124 well control subjects identified from a general population sample of 19 381 adult residents of Georgia.

Main Outcome Measures

Self-reported childhood trauma (sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; emotional and physical neglect), psychopathology (depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder), and salivary cortisol response to awakening.

Results

Individuals with CFS reported significantly higher levels of childhood trauma and psychopathological symptoms than control subjects. Exposure to childhood trauma was associated with a 6-fold increased risk of CFS. Sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and emotional neglect were most effective in discriminating CFS cases from controls. There was a graded relationship between exposure level and CFS risk. The risk of CFS conveyed by childhood trauma further increased with the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. Only individuals with CFS and with childhood trauma exposure, but not individuals with CFS without exposure, exhibited decreased salivary cortisol concentrations after awakening compared with control subjects.

Conclusions

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. 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 CFS.”

Please also see: Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome –The Misunderstood Nightmare

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Article Source: pubmed.gov

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2 Responses to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Highly Associated With Childhood Trauma and Abuse

  1. This is really interesting to read – I do not have chronic fatigue syndrome but I do have a lot of chronic pain. In particular, chronic vaginal and pelvic pain. I have a lot of scar tissue from the sexual abuse that started when I was an infant. It has impacted my marriage negatively. I knew the scar tissue was an issue but never thought about how the pain I feel with intercourse may be related to something psychological (the trauma history) rather than just the scars. Thanks for posting this.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Dina. Thanks for stopping by to read the article.

      “I knew the scar tissue was an issue but never thought about how the pain I feel with intercourse may be related to something psychological (the trauma history) rather than just the scars.”

      Thank you for saying this. It helped me a lot to know that I am not alone.

      Alethea

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