A study published in the January issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry revealed that childhood trauma is a “potent risk factor” for developing ME/CFS. The study was done by researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine and the CDC.
The study results confirm that childhood trauma, particularly emotional abuse and sexual abuse, is associated with a six-fold increase in the development of ME/CFS. The risk increases even more with the presence of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.
The study also found that low levels of cortisol that are commonly seen in ME/CFS patients are also associated with childhood trauma. Cortisol is the hormone that helps the body regulate stress and how the body responds to stress. Ask any ME/CFS patient if they can handle stress and most likely their answer will be a definite NO.
Christine M. Heim, PhD, lead author of the study, said:
The study indicates that low cortisol levels may actually reflect a marker for the risk of developing CFS rather than being a sign of the syndrome itself.”
Here is what was involved with the study:
The population-based study analyzed data from 113 people with CFS, and a control group of 124 people without CFS, drawn from a sample of almost 20,000 Georgians. The results confirm earlier findings from a 2006 study conducted in Wichita, Kan.
Study participants completed a self-reported questionnaire on five different types of childhood trauma including emotional, physical and sexual abuse, and emotional and physical neglect. Researchers also collected saliva samples from participants to record levels of cortisol over one hour after awakening, typically an individual’s highest cortisol levels for the day.
“When looking at CFS cases with and without histories of childhood trauma, only those with childhood trauma had the classic low cortisol levels often seen in CFS cases,” explains Heim.
Heim wanted to point out, however, that not all people who have ME/CFS suffered from childhood trauma and that ME/CFS may be a “spectrum of disorders associated with childhood adversity, depression and anxiety disorders”.
I think that this study and the major exposure that this study has received is going to put us patients back to 20 years ago where physicians and the public believed we’re sick because of psychological reasons, not physical reasons. I would love to know on a larger scale just how many CFS patients have suffered from emotional and/or sexual abuse as children just to get an overall picture of what those results really are.
I just found this site and read the article about “childhood trauma link” for ME/CFS.
I have narcolepsy and fibromyalgia-diagnosed at age 40. I am on medication for narcolepsy. I just have to live with the pain of fibromyalgia.
After much research, I believe that the sexual abuse I suffered my entire childhood is the ROOT CAUSE of these conditions.
Narcolepsy: when you are afraid, nervous and anxious anytime you get sleepy, because you are vulnerable, your sleep will be fragmented. The old “cowboy with one eye open” type of sleep. The body learns to adjust in order to survive. It is physical reaction as a result of an abnormal situation.
Fibromyalgia: you never feel safe, cannot relax no matter what, don’t trust people…then your muscles never relax. NEVER. They are on alert 24/7. This too is a physical reaction as a result of an abnormal situation.
I have worked with many types of therapies to change these conditions and have partially succeeded. I now work WITH my body, not fight against it. I do not have a personality disorder – I was a victim – like any victim. It would be more beneficial to do studies linking chemical changes in the body to ANY traumatic event instead of labeling certain types of truama. Shame is still connected with sexual abuse cases and people will not seek help if labeled this way.
I have suffered from severe M.E. for over ten years, being mostly housebound. 6 years ago I started getting flashbacks to an abusive childhood that I had completely repressed. Using an army of self-help therapies, I began to go with it and investigated my forgotten past. After 5 years of intense (and I mean intense) grieving, I am now up and about and well on my way to having the life I dreamed of getting back. I’m not saying it’s the same for every M.E. sufferer, but for me I have no doubt that the cause lay 100 per cent in my traumatic history. My body literally had ‘gone mad’ from the horrendous emotional pain I had been unable to express as a child.
I got a good information from this.
I suffered extreme emotional abuse as a child and the same thing..we never slept! always in fight or flight stance,, I am truly convinced there’s alink to PTSD and autoimmune..
Kathryn Day says
There is now a substantial body of studies linking social stressors such as harassment and bullying with all sorts of poor health outcomes including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and more. Just because ME/CFS is difficult to diagnose and therefore leaves its sufferers open to accusations of malingering is no reason to doubt that one of its many potential triggers is emotional stress.
BEVERLY REEVES says
could you elaborate?
I believe I have Me/Cfs. Can’t find a Doc. That will do the testing. I’m in so much pain. Can you help me?
I believe I have Me/Cfs. Can’t find a Doc. That will do the testing. I’m in so much pain. Can you help me? I live in Central Michigan.
Cam you find a support group near you? Or call one. They will have suggestions. Also, online I believe ME associations. Also Dr. Kilmas has a lot of suggestions on her videos on utube. Also, stanford university puts out a lot of u tube videos educating the latest research and medicines they are trying. I forget the name..hope foundation or something.
I have PTSD and severe ME/CFS. I am having a hard time getting a diagnosis of ME/CFS because of the PTSD with my doctors. I got the run around with the neurologist the other day. I think he almost kicked me out of his office because I was so defensive to him about this issue. He asked me if I am having an “adverson to psychiatric treatment”as to why I have so many symptoms. And “I wrote down all these symptoms down because I read about them on the internet as I am a person that stays up to date on thingson ME. ( As I knew more about current research on ME/CFS than he did.) He ha!! Oh well. Got to lauph about it right?. Still, I believe it could be a predisposition of the illness. I got sick when I was doing psychotherapy looking at my past wondering what happened to me. ( I have an amnesiac type of PTSD.) I have always wondered if that was part of the reason why i got sick..I also heard a testimony at church of someone healed of CFS by Jesus when she had a vision of angels coming and taking out all the arrows of past abuse that were shot at her in childhood out of her. That seems to fit this articles description. Emotional wounds can cause sickness they teach at church. But Jesus still heals! It all ties together with any sickness. For example Proverbs 14:30.