OBJECTIVES: Evidence in the literature suggests stress-related changes of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in mobbing. We investigated the association between HPA activity and psychological profiles in mobbing, using a multidisciplinary approach.
DESIGN: Forty-eight victims of mobbing were evaluated by a working group of the Departments of Occupational Medicine, Psychiatry and Internal Medicine. After an informed consent, a detailed occupational history, a psychiatric interview with Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory 2 (MMPI-2) administration and a blood sample (8:00 AM) for the determination of basal adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) plasma levels were collected. Twenty-six patients received an overnight dexamethasone (dex) test.
RESULTS: Mean ACTH, cortisol and DHEAS levels were within normal ranges. The dex-test response was normal, with a significant hormone suppression (ACTH p<0.001, cortisol p<0.001, DHEAS p<0.001). The correlations between basal hormones and the psychometric scales of MMPI-2 revealed that cortisol was significantly and negatively related to Psychasthenia (Pt, p=0.003) and Depression (D, p=0.006), while DHEAS showed a significant negative correlation to Hysteria (Hy, p=0.008). Basal ACTH levels were not significantly related to psychometric scales.
CONCLUSION: A significant inverse correlation between morning plasma cortisol levels and psychometric parameters in victims of mobbing with adjustment disorders was observed. A larger group of patients is necessary to identify and validate a cut-off cortisol level that may become an innovative biological parameter for the diagnosis and follow-up in victims of mobbing.