Biological Contributions to PTSD: Differentiating Normative from Pathological Response

Rachel Yehuda, Laura Pratchett and Michelle Pelcovitz

in The Oxford Handbook of Traumatic Stress Disorders

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399066
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Biological Contributions to PTSD: Differentiating Normative from Pathological Response

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Although the majority of the population will be exposed to trauma, only a small minority will subsequently develop either acute stress disorder (ASD) or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Efforts to distinguish those at risk for a pathological response have identified certain peritraumatic responses and neuroanatomical and biological variables as candidate indicators. This chapter reviews what is currently known about biological and neuroendocrine features that have been found to correlate with PTSD in efforts to determine whether PTSD is simply a continuation of a normative, acute response to trauma exposure. In particular, the neuroendocrine literature suggests HPA axis alterations in PTSD that are complex and may reflect preexisting risk factors or pathophysiology of the disorder.

Keywords: catecholamines; cortisol; hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis; glucocorticoid receptors; pathophysiology; negative feedback

Article.  12061 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Clinical Psychology

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