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Low cortisol levels may increase risk of depression in bipolar disorder
Date:6/18/2014

Depression is almost twice as common, and poor quality of life almost five times as common, in people with bipolar disorder who have elevated or low levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood. Researchers at Ume University, Sweden, report this in a study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

"In bipolar depression the stress system is often activated, which means that the affected individuals have elevated cortisol levels in the blood. We have now been able to show that both over- and underactivity in the stress system, with corresponding elevated or reduced cortisol levels, can impair mental health in terms of depression and poor quality of life in these patients," says Martin Maripuu, a PhD student at the Department of Clinical Sciences, Psychiatry Unit Ume University and physician at the psychiatric clinic, stersund Hospital.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong disease that causes recurrent episodes of both mania and depression. Stress is a known trigger for these episodes, and depression and mania also adds to the accumulated stress load.

One of the body's main stress systems is the HPA axis. This system regulates the production and level of the vital stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that everyone needs in everyday life in order to cope with various stressful situations, such as pain, illness and stress at work.

Stress causes overactivity in the stress system, resulting in elevated levels of cortisol. If the stress continues in the long-term, it is believed to cause an underactivity in the stress system, which results in low cortisol levels.

Previous studies have shown that the stress system is often overactive in patients with bipolar depression. To investigate the relationship between cortisol levels and depression among these patients, the researchers at Ume University conducted a study with 145 patients who had bipolar disorder, as well as 145 people in a control group. The rese
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Contact: Martin Maripuu
martin.maripuu@psychiat.umu.se
46-070-617-6769
Umea University
Source:Eurekalert  

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