Deficiency in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been associated with increased corticotropin releasing hormone and may contribute to hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) hyperactivity. Elevated levels of the neuroactive steroids, allopregnanolone (3alpha,5alpha-THP) and 3alpha,5alpha-tetrahydrodeoxycorticosterone (THDOC) appear to counter-regulate HPA hyperactivity. Plasma essential fatty acids and neurosteroids were assessed among 18 male healthy controls and among 34 male psychiatric patients with DSM-III alcoholism, depression, or both. Among all subjects, lower plasma DHA was correlated with higher plasma THDOC (r = -0.3, P < 0.05) and dihydroprogesterone (DHP) (r = -0.52, P < 0.05). Among psychiatric patients lower DHA was correlated with higher DHP (r = -0.60, P < 0.01), and among healthy controls lower plasma DHA was correlated with higher THDOC (r = -0.83, P < 0.01) and higher isopregnanolone (3beta,5alpha-THP) (r = -0.55, P < 0.05). In this pilot observational study, lower long-chain omega-3 essential fatty acid status was associated with higher neuroactive steroid concentrations, possibly indicating increased feedback inhibition of the HPA axis.