Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis


Psychological Science

Thesis Type

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Dr. Matthew Price


PTSD, Salivary cortisol, Acute distress


Following traumatic injury, approximately one third of patients admitted to the hospital will develop a psychiatric condition, including post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; O’Donnell, Bryant, Creamer, & Carty, 2008). It is unknown, however, why some develop PTSD and others recover. Theorists have proposed acute distress as a potential factor that contributes to identifying PTSD risk. Cortisol is a widely used marker of stress reactivity, and prior work has shown that people with inhibited cortisol reactions following trauma are at higher risk for subsequent PTSD (Price, Kearns, Houry, & Rothbaum, 2014). This project investigated the interaction between the acute stress reaction and cortisol with regards to their relation to subsequent PTSD symptoms. No significant interaction was found between cortisol and later PTSD, with the null result likely stemming from measurement related confounds. The data suggest that salivary cortisol collected shortly after the trauma in conjunction with acute distress may be an unreliable biomarker of PTSD.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.