“Childhood Trauma and Risk…” by C. Heim

Subject: Healthcare Research
Pages: 2
Words: 469
Reading time:
2 min
Study level: College

“Childhood trauma and risk for chronic fatigue syndrome association with neuroendocrine dysfunction” is authored by Christine Heim, Urs M. Nater, Elizabeth Maloney, Roumiana Boneva, James F. Jones and William C. Reeves and published in 2009 in the Archives of General Psychiatry Journal volume 66, number 1 from page 72-80. Heim et al. (2009) sought to confirm that there is an association between childhood trauma and predisposition to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Moreover, the authors of this study sought to find out whether neuroendocrine dysfunction, common in CFS, is connected with childhood trauma. The main health condition that Heim and colleagues (2009) sought to study was chronic fatigue syndrome. The authors of this study then sought to study how CFS is related to two other conditions: childhood trauma and neuroendocrine dysfunction.

To evaluate the relationship between CFS, childhood trauma and neuroendocrine dysfunction, the researchers investigated various forms of childhood trauma including physical trauma and neglect, sexual abuse, as well as emotional abuse and neglect. Factors that were studied to identify psychopathology were anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic disorder. Neuroendocrine dysfunction was understood by studying the response of salivary cortisol upon awakening. The study was conducted among adults who resided in Georgia, USA. 113 CFS patients, as well as 124 persons who were free of CFS (control subjects), were selected from among 19,381 adults.

This study used an observational design. This is because the study took a case-control approach and assessed the participants retrospectively. CFS individuals were identified through a review of medical history as well as physical and biochemical analysis of samples from subjects. Childhood trauma was assessed using a questionnaire, neuroendocrine dysfunction was determined using laboratory assays of salivary cortisol whereas psychopathology assessment was measured using an assessment scale. Heim et al. (2009) identified that CFS patients had a higher record of childhood trauma compared to control subjects. Psychopathological symptoms (e.g. depression) were higher among CFS individuals than in control subjects.

The risk of developing chronic fatigue syndrome increased six times if one had been exposed to childhood trauma with this risk being more pronounced in persons who had been sexually or emotionally abused as well as those who had experienced emotional neglect. The higher the level of exposure to childhood trauma, the higher the risk of CFS; and in cases where posttraumatic stress disorder coexisted with childhood trauma, the risk of CFS was even more pronounced. Concentrations of salivary cortisol reduced upon awakening in CFS patients who had experienced childhood trauma but not in CFS patients who had not been exposed to childhood trauma.

The authors of this study came up with two main conclusions. Firstly, it was confirmed that childhood trauma risks individuals to the development of CFS. Secondly, Heim et al. (2009) confirmed that neuroendocrine dysfunction, which is common in CFS cases, is related to childhood trauma.


Heim, C., Nater, U., Maloney, E., Boneva, R. and Jones, J. et al. (2009). Childhood trauma and risk for chronic fatigue syndrome association with neuroendocrine dysfunction. Archives of General Psychiatry, 66(1): 72–80.