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Persistent effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management on cortisol responses to acute stress in healthy subjects—A randomized controlled trial

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2005.08.007
  • Cortisol
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Stress Management Training
  • Psychosocial Stress
  • Biology
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


Summary Psychosocial stress leads to a release of cortisol. While this psychoneuroendocrine response helps to maintain physiological as well as psychological equilibrium under stress, exaggerated secretion of cortisol has been shown to have negative effects on somatic health and cognitive functioning. The study set out to examine the long-term effects of cognitive-behavioral stress management training on cortisol stress responses in healthy men and women. Eighty-three healthy subjects were randomly assigned to cognitive-behavioral stress management (CBSM) training or a control condition. Four months after the CBSM, 76 subjects underwent a standardized psychosocial stress test. Salivary cortisol responses were assessed repeatedly before and after the stress test. Subjects in the CBSM group showed significantly reduced cortisol stress responses. With regard to gender, this effect was observed in both men and women. However, the magnitude of the CBSM effect on cortisol responses was smaller in women than in men. Use of oral contraceptives in women influenced the cortisol response, but did not have an impact on the CBSM effect on cortisol. The results show that the previously reported attenuation of cortisol stress responses through CBSM persists and are observable in both men and women. Since stress-induced alterations of hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis functioning are discussed to be involved in the onset and maintenance of both somatic and psychiatric conditions, similar interventions could be used for prevention and therapy of these detrimental stress effects.

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