Adult sexual abuse is associated with elevated neurohormone levels among women with PTSD due to childhood sexual abuse

Authors

  • Matthew J. Friedman,

    1. National Center for PTSD, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT and Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH
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  • John Jalowiec,

    1. National Center for PTSD, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT and Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH
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  • Gregory McHugo,

    1. National Center for PTSD, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT and Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH; and Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center, White River Junction, NH
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  • Sheila Wang,

    1. Judith Nan Joy Integrative Medicine Initiative, Children's Memorial Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL
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  • Annmarie McDonagh

    1. National Center for PTSD, VA Medical Center, White River Junction, VT and Department of Psychiatry, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH
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Abstract

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with reduced, similar, or increased urinary cortisol levels. The authors identified a factor that might contribute to such variability when they obtained 24-hour urinary neurohormone profiles on 69 women with PTSD due to childhood sexual abuse. Half (n = 35) had subsequently experienced adult sexual abuse (ASA) while the other half (n = 34) had not. The ASA group had significantly elevated urinary cortisol, norepinephrine and dopamine levels in comparison to the non-ASA group. Neither a history of childhood or adult physical abuse nor other variables contributed to this finding. The results suggest that the psychobiological consequences of exposure to the same traumatic event may differ as a result of an interaction between age and the composite history of trauma exposure.

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