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Psychiatry Res. 2007 Aug 30;152(2-3):197-204. Epub 2007 Apr 20.

Delayed recall of childhood sexual abuse memories and the awakening rise and diurnal pattern of cortisol.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.


Traumatic stress associated with childhood sexual abuse (CSA) may result in chronic alterations of stress-sensitive neurochemical systems (e.g., the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic-adrenal medullary activity). Some authors have suggested that these alterations might help explain why some individuals, after a period of inability to remember, demonstrate delayed recall of CSA memories (i.e., "recovered" memories). The present study is the first study that explored morning cortisol responses and circadian cortisol profiles among women with recovered (n=7), repressed (n=8), or continuous (n=6) memories of CSA and women without a history of CSA (n=9). Although there were group differences in current depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, we found no differences in cortisol awakening response or daytime profile between women reporting recovered, repressed, or continuous memories of CSA as compared to women without a history of CSA. Implications for neurobiological models intended to explain the delayed recall of CSA are discussed.

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