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Stress Hormone Cortisol May Lead to Psychosis

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7. Stress Hormone Cortisol May Lead to Psychosis

Stress Hormone and Psychosis

A relationship between levels of the stress hormone cortisol and psychosis has been established by researchers, which would help identify persons at greatest threat of developing this severe mental disorder. According to JCU Associate Professor Zoltan Sarnyai, this was the primary meta-analysis to evaluate the extent of cortisol in the body of an awakened patient with the stage of schizophrenia they are having. He also mentioned that doctors could also be competent to eventually determine individuals who will improve full-blown psychosis from among individuals who present with early stages of the sickness.

According to him Only some 20 to 30 per cent of individuals who are at high-risk of developing psychosis due to their clinical presentation or family history actually do so. Identifying those people early is where the cortisol measurement comes in. Biomarkers are very few and far between in psychiatry, so even though a huge amount of work is still needed, this could become a valuable technique.

Cortisol Awakening Response

Researchers at the Psychiatric Neuroscience Laboratory at the Australian Institute of Tropical health and medicine (AITHM) at JCU did a meta-analysis of eleven studies.


The resulting paper, published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews suggests that patients have distinct stages of the stress hormone after awakening (Cortisol Awakening Response, CAR) relative to normal controls.

The co-author of the study, JCU’s Dr Maximus Berger, said that scientists had suspected cortisol may have a position in psychotic disorders for a very long time, however until now, some results had been contradictory. He remarked, We were able to show that patients with psychosis fail to produce cortisol after they wake up in the morning. We found this even in patients with recent onset of the illness.

The paper identified some evidence that advised that high risk participants who later have psychosis already have changes in cortisol before they have the illness.

Dr Sarnyai mentioned that low cortisol levels are also an indicator of risk for other  long term illnesses and were linked to systemic inflammation and changes in the microbial flora of the gut, which meant that there was potential for early analysis and medication of those conditions too.

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