Exploring the mutual regulation between oxytocin and cortisol as a marker of resilience

Published:November 20, 2018DOI:


      • Both oxytocin and cortisol levels were relatively high in women with PTSD-D.
      • Both hormones were relatively low in women with PTSD only.
      • Both hormones in women with PTSD-D and PTSD only are dysregulated.
      • Both hormones in women with PTSD-D and PTSD only are not lacking in reciprocity.


      Early trauma can increase the risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood. Early trauma has also been associated with the dysregulation between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and oxytocin systems and may influence the co-regulation between these two systems. But whether the mutual regulation of the two systems represents a sign of resilience and/or mutual dysregulation could be a sign of vulnerability to PTSD and the dissociative subtype of PTSD (PTSD-D) is unknown. The study aims to synthesize and conduct a preliminary test of a conceptual model of the mutual regulation between these two systems as a marker of resilience. We analyzed a pilot data with 22 pregnant women in 3 groups (PTSD only, PTSD-D, and trauma-exposed resilient controls) and repeated measures of plasma oxytocin and cortisol. Oxytocin and cortisol seemed reciprocal in all three groups, but both levels were relatively high in women with PTSD-D and low in those with PTSD compared with controls. This suggests that both hormones in women with PTSD-D and PTSD only are dysregulated, but not lacking in reciprocity.


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