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Abstract: Chronic fatigue, abuse-related traumatization, and psychiatric disorders in a community-based sample

  [ 70 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • September 4, 2002

Source: Social Science & Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 2, Pages 247-256. July 2002  Renee R. Taylor and Leonard A. Jason, Department of Psychology, DePaul University, 2219 North Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614, USA

Corresponding Author Tel.: +1-773-325-2060; fax: +1-773-325-4721;  email:


The relationship between sexual and physical abuse history and negative health effects has been well-documented in medical facility samples. Few studies have examined the role of abuse history and its relationship with chronic fatigue and psychiatric disorders in a diverse, randomly selected community-based sample.

The present study compared rates of different types of abuse events in individuals with chronic fatigue and non-symptomatic controls. Relationships between specific types of abuse and psychiatric disorders commonly associated with chronic fatigue were also explored. A stratified random sample of 18,675 adults residing in ethnically and socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods in Chicago first completed a telephone screening questionnaire.

A control group and a group of individuals with chronic fatigue symptomatology were identified and administered a semi-structured psychiatric interview assessing DSM-IV Axis I psychiatric disorders and a sexual and physical abuse history questionnaire. Controlling for sociodemographic differences, fatigue outcome was significantly predicted by childhood sexual abuse and the total number of different childhood abuse events.

Within the chronic fatigue group, diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was significantly predicted by childhood sexual abuse, childhood death threat, the total number of childhood abuse events, and lifetime abuse events. Sexual abuse during adolescence or adulthood significantly predicted other anxiety disorders among individuals with chronic fatigue. These findings suggest that a history of abuse, particularly during childhood, may play a role in the development and perpetuation of a wide range of disorders involving chronic fatigue. Among individuals with chronic fatigue, PTSD and other anxiety disorders appear to demonstrate the strongest association with abuse history. The implications of these findings are discussed.

Author Keywords: Chronic fatigue; Sexual abuse; Physical abuse; Psychiatric disorders; USA

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