Elevated alpha-amylase but not cortisol in generalized social anxiety disorder

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 33, Number 10, p.1313-1321 (2008)

DOI Name (links to online publication)



AGE; Anxiety; Anxiety Disorders; Autonomic Nervous System; AXIS; cortisol; Dexamethasone; DISORDER; HPA; HPA axis; HPA-axis; Hypothalamic; INCREASE; MODEL; Nervous System; NERVOUS-SYSTEM; Netherlands; PITUITARY; Saliva; SYSTEM


Stress-system dysregulation is thought to increase the risk for anxiety disorders. Here we describe both hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity in basal non-challenging conditions and after 0.5mg dexamethasone in generalized social anxiety disorder (gSAD) patients. To ensure stress-free sampling we collected saliva and determined cortisol and alpha-amylase (sAA), the latter a relative new marker of autonomic activity. Forty-three untreated gSAD patients without comorbidity were compared with 43 age and gender matched controls in non-stressed conditions on sAA and cortisol after awakening, during the day (including late evening), and after a low dose (0.5mg) of dexamethasone. Cortisol and sAA were analyzed with mixed models. Additional analyses were done with paired t-tests. Apart from the assessments in the morning, gSAD patients had significantly higher diurnal and post-dexamethasone 1600h sAA levels. No differences between gSAD and controls in any cortisol measurements were found. In conclusion, in gSAD in basal, non-stimulated conditions and after dexamethasone, we found hyperactivity of the ANS, as measured with sAA, but not of the HPA-axis. This suggests a relative increased activity of the ANS as compared to the HPA-axis, in line with the observed hyperarousal in gSAD