Chronic fatigue syndrome and history of abuse.




J Nerv Ment Dis

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Professional Data: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome


Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is the current name for a disease that has been described for three centuries. It is characterized by a debilitating fatigue and a variety of other physical, constitutional, and neuropsychological complaints. Certain individuals who were labeled in the past with various diagnoses ranging from neurasthenia to encephalomyelitis, are now thought to have chronic fatigue syndrome. The diversity of names is a reflection of the number and of the controversy of theories of the disease. Whatever the cause, there seems to be several common themes that occur. It is often postinfectious, it is associated with immunological disturbances, and it is frequently accompanied by depression.

Currently, the lymphotropic herpes viruses, retroviruses, and enteroviruses are being studied as potential causes of chronic fatigue. Multiple factors have led investigators to believe one or more of these viruses causes chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms include unexplained, continuous, or occasional fatigue that is of new or definite onset; is not the result of ongoing exertion; is not relieved by rest; and results in substantial reduction of previous levels of occupational, educational, social, or personal activities. Other symptoms may occur, such as headache, sore throat, or muscle pain. 800,000 American adults suffer from CFS, and 3 out of 4 sufferers are women.1

At the University of Illinois in Chicago, researchers investigated the history of abuse and the correlation it has with CFS. They looked at childhood sexual, physical, and death threat abuse and the predictions of adulthood medical and psychiatric conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome. They also examined suggestions that interpersonal abuse occurred in CFS patients. To examine the relationship between abuse and CFS, the researchers used Multinomial logistic regression. The outcome illustrated that sexual abuse was more common in patients with idiopathic chronic fatigue, relating to a psychiatric condition, and chronic fatigue explained by a medical condition, than it was common in healthy controls. The types of abuse did not directly predict the condition CFS. After a closer examination, the researchers found that significantly fewer CFS sufferers reported the abuse compared to controls.2


1. The Chronic Fatigue Infectious Disease Syndrome (CFIDS) Association of America, 2000.
2. Taylor RR, et al. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, chronic fatigue, and chronic fatigue syndrome: a community-based study. J Nerv Ment Dis. Oct 2001;189(10):709-15.