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Keywords:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • plasma dehydroepiandrosterone;
  • dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate;
  • glucocorticoids

Objective:  Increased plasma dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) have been demonstrated in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but the documented beneficial effects of these steroids in enhancing mood and cognition, as well as neuroprotection, suggest their presence in PTSD may be associated with defensive rather than maladaptive effects.

Method:  We, therefore, examined plasma DHEA, DHEAS, cortisol, and the DHEA/cortisol ratio in 40 male veterans with or without PTSD, and determined their relationships to PTSD symptom severity and symptom improvement.

Results:  The PTSD group showed significantly higher plasma DHEA and non-significantly higher DHEAS levels as well as a significantly lower cortisol/DHEA ratio, controlling for age. Regression analyses demonstrated that DHEA and DHEAS levels could be predicted by symptom improvement and coping, whereas the cortisol/DHEA ratio was predicted by severity of childhood trauma and current symptom severity.

Conclusion:  That greater symptom improvement was related to DHEA levels may suggest for a role for these hormones in modulating recovery from PTSD.