In response, a commenter pointed out:
It should be kept in mind, however, that it is well possible there is a link between trauma and CFS/ME - and it does not in any way indicate that the illness is psychiatric or psychosomatic in origin (or that it could be treated with psychotherapy), even though that's what the media often makes out of it. It's well-known that in lab animals trauma early in their life causes irrepairable damage to the HPA axis.This is a reasonable argument, and it's true. Stressors do affect the immune system, and exploring these kinds of mind/body connections doesn't necessarily imply that the resulting diseases are all in the patient's head.
So what's the problem with this study, and others like it?
Many of the subjects don't actually have ME/CFS.
People with ME/CFS feel crushing fatigue, significant pain, and post-exertional malaise. The latter term means that any exertion -- even just walking to the bathroom and back -- causes them to feel much, much worse. The CDC's definition, however, only includes pain and post-exertional malaise as possible symptoms.
This is important. There are a lot of conditions that can make people feel chronically tired for a long time. One of them is clinical depression. If you're looking for the effects of childhood sexual abuse, and you include subjects who have clinical depression but not true ME/CFS, you're going to seriously skew your results.
It's not simply that they've funded a study focusing on a psychological cause. It's that they've extended the definition of ME/CFS to include people who might be suffering from clinical depression instead.
I'll conclude with another quote from Weintraub's original article:
Perhaps the most notable thing about the Emory study, Johnson points out, is that it fails to cite a study performed in 2001 that asked the identical question. That study demonstrated that people with CFS actually have a lower incidence of childhood abuse and trauma than controls.