Checking hormone levels prior to deployment may help predict PTSD risk in soldiers, finds study

Checking hormone levels prior to deployment may help predict PTSD risk in soldiers, finds study

It is normal to get perturbed after experiencing a life-threatening event or extreme trauma. But when this traumatic stress continues to exist for a long time in the form of flashbacks, anger outbursts, isolation and avoidance, it could be the sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When it comes to soldiers, who are always at risk of death or injury, PTSD can be a serious issue and calls for immediate medical help.

A new study by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin revealed that PTSD in some soldiers is not the result of war-related trauma, but due to their hormonal predisposition toward certain stress-related mental disorders. According to the study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, stress hormone cortisol plays an integral role in the onset of PTSD, provided the level of testosterone, an important male sex hormone, is brought down.

Link between cortisol and testosterone

Salivary cortisol is a frequently used biomarker for stress studies and cortisol is a stress hormone released as part of the body’s defense mechanism. While studies in the past failed to prove the existence of a link between development of PTSD and cortisol level, the latest study threw light on the role of cortisol in the development of PTSD.

During the course of the study, saliva samples of soldiers were studied prior to their deployment. Thereafter, monthly samples of saliva were taken to understand the impact of war zone stressors. It was found that soldiers who showed abnormal cortisol response to the CO2 inhalation challenge were more likely to develop PTSD from war-zone stress than those who had an elevated testosterone response to the CO2 inhalation challenge, irrespective of how cortisol responded to the challenge.

Elaborating on the role of testosterone in controlling the activity of cortisol and vice versa, first author of the study, Robert Josephs said, “Healthy stress responses showed a strong cortisol increase in response to the stressor, whereas abnormal stress responses showed a blunted, nonresponsive change in cortisol.”

PTSD is curable

War not only kills people, but also leaves a drastic psychological impact on those who experience it directly. Troopers are constantly under the line of fire, as they have to be on the alert all the time. Apparently, this constant pressure is enervating, especially for those with a past condition of stress or anxiety. Soldiers who experience combat stressors are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition like PTSD later. Also, reports point out that nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans had PTSD.

An old study, investigating the kinds of stressors that marines and soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq faced, found that the following incidents had the most adverse effect on active service members:

  • Sight of dead bodies
  • Being shot at, attacked or ambushed
  • Receiving rocket or mortar fire
  • Knowing someone who was killed or injured

Most people living with PTSD live under the threat that this disorder will torment them for life. However, the truth is that PTSD is curable provided right treatment and support are available, coupled with self-care. Holistic treatments that administer medications, psychotherapies, experiential therapies like yoga and a recovery management plan often help a person to get rid of his or her stress-related conditions.

Road to recovery

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that needs immediate medical intervention. Ignoring its symptoms will only make matters worse. If you or someone you know is dealing with PTSD or any other anxiety-related disorder, the Anxiety Treatment Centers of California can help. Contact us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-972-9459 or chat online with one of our representatives who can assist you in finding the best anxiety treatment centers in California.

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