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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Aug;31(7):825-38. Epub 2006 May 23.

Increased cortisol in women with intimate partner violence-related posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh Sennott Square, 3rd Floor, 210 S. Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.

Erratum in

  • Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Nov;31(10):1295-6.



Alterations of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function and sympathetic-adrenal activity have been proposed as key factors in biological models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


We examined neuroendocrine function in female survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) with lifetime (current or remitted) PTSD (n=29) and in women who were exposed to IPV but never developed PTSD (n=20). Salivary cortisol was collected as a marker of HPA axis function at 1, 4, 9, and 11 h after awakening. Platelet epinephrine and norepinephrine were assayed as markers of sympathetic-adrenal activation.


Women with lifetime PTSD had significantly higher cortisol levels across the day compared to abuse-exposed participants without PTSD, after controlling for age, depression, severity, and latency of abuse. There were no significant group differences in levels of platelet catecholamines.


Elevated cortisol levels may be a biomarker of IPV-related lifetime PTSD, reflecting long-lasting changes associated with trauma-exposure or possibly a reflection of risk for PTSD in women.

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