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Biol Psychiatry. 1991 Nov 15;30(10):1031-48.

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction in posttraumatic stress disorder.

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  • 1Psychiatry Department, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.


Neuroendocrine studies examining the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis under baseline conditions and in response to neuroendocrine challenges have supported the hypothesis of altered HPA functioning in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, to date, there is much debate concerning the nature of HPA changes in PTSD. Furthermore, in studies showing parallel findings in PTSD and major depressive disorder there is controversy regarding whether the HPA alterations suggest a specific pathophysiology of PTSD, or, rather, reflect comorbid major depressive disorder. This review summarizes findings of HPA axis dysfunction in both PTSD and major depressive disorder, and shows distinct patterns of HPA changes, which are probably due to different mechanisms of action for cortisol and its regulatory factors.

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