Helder Almeida

Cortisol hormone linked to psychosis

A STRESS hormone could help doctors determine a patient's likelihood of experiencing a severe mental breakdown.

Queensland researchers have found a link between the stress hormone cortisol and psychosis.

James Cook University's Psychiatric Neuroscience Laboratory experts analysed 11 studies related to hormones and psychosis and found some patients had different levels of cortisol compared to healthy control subjects.

JCU's Associate Professor Zoltan Sarnyai said it was the first meta-analysis study to compare the level of cortisol in a "waking" patient's body with the stage of schizophrenia they were experiencing.

"Only some 20-30% of individuals who are at high risk of developing psychosis due to their clinical presentation or family history actually do so," Dr Sarnyai said.

"Identifying those people early is where the cortisol measurement comes in.

"Biomarkers are very few and far between in psychiatry, so even though a huge amount of work is still needed, this could become a valuable technique."