The dexamethasone suppression test and thyrotropin-releasing hormone stimulation test in posttraumatic stress disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 1990 Oct 15;28(8):657-64. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(90)90452-8.


Male veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (n = 11), including 6 with concurrent major depressive disorder (MDD), were compared to veterans with MDD alone (n = 18) and to 28 controls in their response to the dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation tests. We found higher levels of 4 PM serum cortisol and lower peak thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) response to TRH in the MDD patients than in either the PTSD patients or controls, in spite of equivalent levels of depression for MDD and PTSD. DST suppression (cortisol less than 5 mg/dl) occurred in 90% of control, 90% of PTSD, and 78% of MDD subjects, whereas TRH blunting (dTSHmax less than 7 microU/ml) occurred in 28% of control, 27% of PTSD, and 67% of MDD subjects. Rather than blunting, four PTSD patients (36%) and only 10% of the control and MDD subjects had high TSH responses (13-24 microU/ml), which may be linked to high noradrenergic activity, since subclinical hypothyroidism seemed unlikely.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Combat Disorders / blood
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / blood
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Dexamethasone*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone*


  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Thyrotropin
  • Hydrocortisone