The prevalence and impact of early childhood trauma in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

J Psychiatr Res. 2013 May;47(5):664-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.01.021. Epub 2013 Feb 16.


Background: Although some studies have found high rates of early childhood trauma in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), the role of early trauma in this condition remains controversial.

Methods: This study examined the prevalence of early childhood trauma and its impact on daily fatigue and pain levels over a 14-day period in a sample of 90 carefully screened CFS patients using a diary method approach. Data were analyzed using multilevel analysis.

Results: More than half of the patients (54.4%) had experienced at least one type of early trauma, with the majority of these patients reporting multiple traumas. Prevalence rates were particularly high for emotional trauma (i.e., emotional abuse and/or emotional neglect) (46.7%). Moreover, total trauma scores and emotional abuse significantly predicted higher levels of daily fatigue and pain over the 14-day period, even when controlling for demographic features and depressed mood.

Conclusions: This is the first study to demonstrate that early childhood trauma predicts increasing levels of core symptoms of CFS in the daily flow of life. Moreover, findings of this study suggest that emotional trauma may be particularly important in CFS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Prevalence