Numerous studies over the last few decades have successfully utilized "psychological" stressors to examine stress-induced cortisol release as a function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) cascade. In contrast, research examining the effect emotionally-laden stressors may have on cortisol release is scarce. Moreover, the results from the few studies that have examined subjective perceptions of emotional stress and their relationship to cortisol release are mixed. Thus, little is known about the impact an emotionally-charged stressor may have on cortisol responsivity and even less is understood about the relationship between cortisol release and perceived emotional stress. The primary goal of the present research was to investigate the effect of consecutive, emotionally stressful events on cortisol release. The secondary goal was to examine the influence perceptions about emotionally stressful events might have on cortisol responsivity. This is the first study to identify two distinct patterns of cortisol release that were significantly reversed (P=0.006) in response to high and low emotion events presented in a consecutive stress paradigm that were associated with perceptions of emotional stress.
- Consecutive stress
- Salivary cortisol