Plasma testosterone levels in patients with combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder

Boris Spivak*, Rachel Maayan, Roberto Mester, Avraham Weizman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: An abnormal level of androgens has been reported in various psychiatric disorders and the important role of androgens in the regulation of human sexuality, aggression, cognition, emotions and personality have been described. Previous studies in the area of stress and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) system in humans indicate that circulating testosterone levels are suppressed by physical and psychological stress. However, there is also evidence that plasma levels of testosterone can increase during potentially stressful events and may be elevated in combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (CR-PTSD) in comparison with normal subjects and major depressive disorder patients. Methods: The aim of the present study was to examine the possible involvement of the HPG system in chronic untreated CR-PTSD. To this end, we assessed the morning plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol in never-treated chronic CR-PTSD outpatients compared with normal healthy controls. Results: There were no statistically significant differences between the CR-PTSD patients and healthy control subjects in morning plasma testosterone (547.8 ± 152.2 ng/dl vs. 565.6 ± 122.4 ng/dl; p = 0.7) and cortisol (19.0 ± 8.5 μg/dl vs. 15.4 ± 5.1 μg/dl; p = 0.1) levels. However, a significant correlation between plasma testosterone level and avoidance symptom scores of the Impact of Events Scale (IES) was found in the CR-PTSD patients (r = 0.43, p < 0.05). Conclusions: The findings of plasma testosterone levels comparable with normal controls in CR-PTSD patients may indicate that the previously described reduction in testosterone levels in normal subjects under stressful conditions may reflect the acute stress response of the HPG axis, in contrast to an adaptation of the HPG axis under chronic psychological stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-60
Number of pages4
JournalNeuropsychobiology
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2003

Keywords

  • Androgens
  • Chronic psychological stress
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Testosterone

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