Stress Hormone Linked to PTSD Symptoms in Women

WEDNESDAY Feb. 23, 2011 -- Women, but not men, with post-traumatic stress disorder have high blood levels of a stress-related hormone, new research shows.

The hormone -- pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) -- is known to affect central nervous system activity, metabolism, blood pressure, pain sensitivity and immune function.

In the new study, published in the Feb. 24 issue of Nature, researchers assessed 64 people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and found that symptom scores were five times higher among women with above-average PACAP levels than among women with below-average PACAP levels.

The team also found that, due to genetic variations, PTSD may be triggered by different biological pathways in women and men.

The finding that PACAP levels are an indicator of PTSD symptoms may lead to new ways to diagnose and treat PTSD and other anxiety disorders, the study authors noted.

"Few biological markers have been available for PTSD or for psychiatric diseases in general. These results give us a new window into the biology of PTSD," first author Dr. Kerry Ressler, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.

Posted: February 2011


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