A disturbed beta-endorphin system can be a part of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression allostasis. Study subjects (N=392) included those with PTSD and/or (stress-induced) depression, and healthy controls with and without traumas. The aim of the study was to examine the network of relations centered around plasma beta-endorphin. The network included anxiety (as a personality trait), traumatic events, pain, aggressiveness, depressive symptoms, and three clusters of PTSD symptoms: intrusions, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Beta-endorphin was represented by individual mean from 13 time points (BEmean), reflecting the total amount of the peripherally secreted hormone, and the coefficient of variation (BEvar), calculated as the ratio of standard deviation to the mean, reflecting the hormone׳s dynamics. BEvar correlated with all other variables, BEmean had no correlations. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to examine all interrelations (including their directions) of BEvar and the state/trait variables in the context of their entirety. The model revealed that hyperarousal and anxiety were the only direct agents of peripheral beta-endorphin fluctuations, mediating the effects of other variables. Traumatic events and intrusions act on BEvar via hyperarousal, while depressive symptoms, avoidance, and pain act via anxiety. Hyperarousal should be emphasized as the main agent not only because its effect on BEvar is larger than that of anxiety, but also because it increases anxiety itself (via avoidance and pain). All influences on BEvar are positive and they indicate long-term (sensitizing) effects (as opposed to direct stimulation, for example, by acute pain, anger, etc.). Relations apart from beta-endorphin are also discussed.
Keywords: Anxiety; Beta-endorphin; Depression; Hyperarousal; PTSD; Structural equation modeling.
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