Anxiety, reactivity, and social stress-induced cortisol elevation in humans.

OBJECTIVES: Traditionally, it has been hypothesized that highly anxious/emotionally reactive subjects may have exaggerated social stress response. We examined the relationship between self-reported anxiety, emotional reactivity, and social stress response.

METHODS: We investigated the relationship between personality scales of trait-state anxiety, subjective autonomic reactivity, and salivary cortisol levels before and after social stress exposure (Trier Social Stress Test) in 20 men.

RESULTS: Significant positive correlations between anxiety, subjective autonomic reactivity, and basal cortisol levels were observed, while neither anxiety nor subjective autonomic reactivity was correlated with social stress-induced cortisol elevation.

CONCLUSIONS: The present results indicate (i) subjects with higher degrees of trait anxiety/subjective autonomic reactivity have higher basal cortisol levels, and (ii) in contrast to the traditional view, anxious personality is not strongly associated with exaggerated cortisol response to social stress.

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