Cortisol response to stress in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Margarida Corominas-Roso, Gloria Palomar, Roser Ferrer, Alberto Real, Mariana Nogueira, Montserrat Corrales, Miguel Casas, Josep Antoni Ramos-Quiroga

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17 Citations (Scopus)


© The Author 2015. Background: Differences in the cortisol response have been reported between children exhibiting the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive subtypes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, there is no such information about adults. The aim of the present study was to determine the possible differences between the combined and inattentive subtypes in the cortisol response to stress. Methods: Ninety-six adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, 38 inattentive and 58 combined, without any medical or psychiatric comorbidities and 25 healthy controls were included. The Trier Social Stress Test was used to assess physiological stress responses. Clinical data and subjective stress levels, including the Perceived Stress Scale, were also recorded. Results: No significant differences in the cortisol response to the Trier Social Stress Test were found between patients and controls. However, albeit there were no basal differences, lower cortisol levels at 15 (P =.015), 30 (P =.015), and 45 minutes (P =.045) were observed in the combined compared with the inattentive subtype after the stress induction; these differences disappeared 60 minutes after the stress. In contrast, the subjective stress responses showed significant differences between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder patients and controls (P <.001), but no differences were seen between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder subtypes. In turn, subjective stress measures, such as the Perceived Stress Scale, positively correlated with the whole cortisol stress response (P <.027). Conclusions: Both the combined and inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder adults exhibited a normal cortisol response to stress when challenged. Nevertheless, the inattentive patients displayed a higher level of cortisol after stress compared with the combined patients. Despite the differences in the cortisol response, adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder reported high levels of subjective stress in their every-day life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
JournalInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • ADHD
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Cortisol
  • Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis
  • Inhibitory deficits
  • Stress


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