Can hormones have anything to do with PTSD? For decades, researchers have grappled with the question of whether abnormal cortisol levels have any effect on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases when faced with dangerous situations that require a flight-or-fight response.
Although previous studies were inconclusive, new research by the University of Texas at Austin and published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology reveals that cortisol levels do play a role — but only when testosterone levels are suppressed. The studies suggest that previous research failed to take into account the effect testosterone levels have on cortisol and its relationship with stress levels.
As part of the studies, 120 soldiers were tracked before, during and after their deployment and combat duties overseas in Iraq. Saliva samples were taken to determine hormone levels. Before deployment, soldiers were exposed to stressful situations. The natural response to stressful situations is an increase in cortisol levels. Soldiers who didn’t show such an increase — in other words, those who had an abnormal cortisol level — were more likely to develop PTSD after combat.
These studies are part of the Texas Combat PTSD Risk Project, which is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
So, how can such research benefit soldiers and veterans? The answer: By helping researchers develop preventative interventions to reduce the risk of PTSD. With the aid of more research, scientists can analyze soldiers’ hormone levels and reactions to stress before their deployment and help develop preventative measures that will reduce the risk of PTSD later on.
For more help with PTSD, just contact us.