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Horm Metab Res. 2007 Jun;39(6):413-9.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in children and adolescents: from Sigmund Freud's "trauma" to psychopathology and the (Dys)metabolic syndrome.

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  • 1First Department of Pediatrics, Athens University Medical School, Aghia Sophia Children's Hospital, Athens, Greece. ppervanid@med.uoa.gr


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety syndrome that develops after exposure to traumatic life events. Symptoms include re-experience of the initial trauma, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and symptoms of excessive arousal. Neuroendocrine studies in adults with PTSD have demonstrated that basal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) CRH levels are elevated and urinary cortisol levels are variable--low in the majority of cases--whereas other studies demonstrate no differences in urinary and plasma cortisol concentrations. Urinary catecholamine excretion is higher in PTSD patients than those of control subjects and other psychiatric disorders. Children may differ from adults in their psychologic and physiologic responses to severe stressors. Also, exposure to stress during critical periods of development may have irreversible effects on behavioral maturation and may affect specific vulnerable brain areas, altering CNS development. Similar to findings in adult studies, PTSD in children is characterized by increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity, as indicated by elevated norepinephrine levels in the periphery. High cortisol levels in urine or saliva have been reported in most studies of childhood PTSD, while prospective longitudinal studies concerning the natural history of neuroendocrine changes in pediatric PTSD after an acute stressor are limited. The identification of neurobiologic changes in response to early adverse experiences is of major importance for the prognosis, prevention, management, and treatment of children and adolescents at risk for or suffering from PTSD.

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