Elevated circulatory level of GABA(A)--antagonistic neurosteroids in patients with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder

Psychol Med. 2000 Sep;30(5):1227-31. doi: 10.1017/s0033291799002731.


Background: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a multisystem neurobiological disorder with chronic alterations in various neurochemical systems. Levels of the GABA(A)--antagonistic neurosteroids plasma dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulphate derivate, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) may be relevant to depressive and anxiety disorders, including PTSD.

Methods: We assessed the circulatory levels of morning plasma DHEA and DHEAS in 21 male outpatients with untreated chronic combat-related PTSD (CR-PTSD), and 18 healthy control male subjects.

Results: Compared with the control subjects, the PTSD patients showed significantly higher plasma DHEA and DHEAS levels.

Conclusions: Chronic CR-PTSD may be associated with increased circulatory level of neuroactive steroids with inhibitory activity at the GABA(A) receptors. Neurosteroid-induced decreased GABAergic tone may be relevant to the symptomatology and pathophysiology of chronic PTSD, as well as to the frequent co-morbidity of PTSD with depression and anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis
  • Combat Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Veterans / psychology*


  • GABA-A Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Hydrocortisone