Stress hormones levels indicates PTSD diagnosis

In an attempt to find a biological marker indicating whether or not an individual is at risk of being diagnosed with a type of stress disorder in response to adverse events, researchers at the New York University medical centre have investigated the relationship between hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal network activity, stress reactions and a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers examined levels of stress hormone cortisol first thing in the morning in newly recruited police officers and investigated the correlation with stress responses to traumatic events later in their career.

The research due to be published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, measured cortisol levels in 296 police recruits when they first woke up in the morning then again 30 minutes later, the difference between the two levels was reported as the cortisol awakening response (CAR). The findings reported that a higher CAR while the individual was in police training, the great levels of acute stress disorder and peritraumatic dissociation symptoms in response to trauma later in their police careers. In other words, higher levels of cortisol upon waking was predictive of the trauma symptoms experienced in response to a stressful or traumatic event within the first three years of their police service.

The results of this study are of upmost interest as through further investigation, cortisol levels when a person wakes up could be indicative of stress reactions and the likelihood of developing PTSD.