The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS and childhood trauma

childhood trauma and chronic fatigue syndrome

A study conducted at the University of Toronto has added to the weight of already existing evidence that individuals who have experienced childhood trauma are at greater risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome (also sometimes referred to as CFS, or, in medical circles, myalgicencephalomyelitis – try saying that after a few drinks!)

Participating in the study were 7000 females, and it was found that those with CFS were TWICE as likely to have experienced childhood trauma than those who were free of the condition. As implied in the first paragraph, other studies have provided similar results.

It is believed that the reason behind the findings is that childhood trauma produces physiological effects upon the developing brain that have an adverse effect upon the individual’s stress response system (click here for one of my articles on the effects of childhood trauma on the developing brain).

Also, because the psychological effects of childhood trauma are also thought to contribute to the elevated risk of developing CFS, doctors may well increasingly turn to treating the condition with psychotherpeutic techniques (also sometimes referred to as ‘talking therapies’).

It is not to be inferred from the above that childhood trauma is the main cause of CFS (or even a necessary contributing factor, for that matter), but, rather, that it is likely to increase a person’s vulnerability to falling victim to the condition.

Following these findings, it has been suggested that a useful way of building upon this research would be to focus future studies specifically upon the precise physiological changes that occur in the brain as a result of childhood trauma and analyse the mechanisms through which such changes put a person at higher risk of developing CFS. Further, it is important to try to discover how physiological changes in the brain that are the result of childhood trauma differ from changes that occur as a result of other types of long-term stress during adulthood.


The symptoms of CFS are as follows :

– persistent fatigue/exhaustion which affects everyday life and is not rectified by sleep or rest

– in the UK, the condition is thought to affect approximately a quarter of a million people

– the condition is more prevalent in females than in males

– it normally affects people between about the ages of 20 – 45 years; however, it can begin during childhood – if so, it normally begins between the ages of 13 and 15 years


CFS can be split into 3 different levels of severity :

– MILD : the person can probably care for him/herself, but may require days off in order to rest

– MODERATE : at this level the individual may well experience reduced mobility, disturbed sleep, as well as a need to sleep in the afternoon

– SEVERE : at this level the person will have significantly decreased mobility, possible impairments to his/her ability to concentrate as well as greatly reduced ability to perform many everyday tasks


As well as childhood trauma, other possible causes include :

– a viral infection

– problems with the immune system

– an imbalance of hormones

– the inheritance of a genetic predisposition


1) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

2) Graded Exercise Therapy

3) Medication (especially if the CFS includes symptoms such as pain, nausea or sleep disorders)

4) Hypnotherapy – research shows that hypnotherapy can be effective in treating CFS. For example, a study by D. Corydon Hammond, based at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Utah School of Medicine, showed that individuals with CFS who were treated with hypnotherapy saw improvements in fatigue levels, vigor and levels of concentration.


Overcome Chronic Fatigue Syndrome MP3 – CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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